Label: Truthseeker Music
It shouldn’t have been this way. Sure, I expected that the second album by British band Rope would be an album full of emotional power; the kind of record that can kindle to life emotions you thought were long-lost to the faded memories of youth. But what I didn’t expect Come Closer Now to do was hit in ways that speak of emotional vulnerability in so profoundly adult, mature ways; to come across like a record made by people who have worked shitty jobs, gone through genuine heart-break and loss, and come through it all with their sense of self both reinforced and adjusted. Somewhere between Self Defense Family, Slint, and Jawbox, Come Closer Now is the album that will speak to your 30-something self in ways that you didn’t think were still possible.
It opens in a manner that’s characteristic of the album. First track ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Food’ begins with a bass riff that bring to mind Godflesh filtered via 90’s DC post-hardcore, before stabs of guitar come in, topped off hoarse, yet impassioned sung-spoken vocals and smartly restrained drumming. It’s a drawn-out introduction to the album, with the moment of catharsis dangled tantalizingly closer yet forever out of reach.
Such is the way with most of Come Closer Now. The album is, on the whole, content to take its time, moving at mid-tempos, heavy in an emotional sense rather than a musical one (though, there are plenty of moments when the music does become heavy, with crashing post-hardcore movements and post-rock moments of climax). Throughout, one of the real strengths of Rope is in the lyrics; it is here where the band display their maturity, and ability to cut to the heart with the most subtle of lines. Every song contains a wealth of lyrical high-lights, but special mention has to go to third track, ‘Human Resources’. The stand-out song of the album, built upon a slowly snaking melody, it’s the only song on the album that makes best use of a typical verse-chorus-verse structure, using this intentionally restrictive, repetitive framework to gradually build in power until it reaches the chorus.
And what a chorus it is. On paper, it may not sound like anything too special – restrained drums, spacious guitars, and vocals that come to the fore – but the emotional impact is that of someone reaching in to your heart and pulling it out in the most gentle of ways. The clever, cutting lyrics – ‘Not making any promises / But she’ll see what she can do’ – are delivered with such depth of feeling that it’s hard not to have them feel like the most profound words ever uttered, with a lifetime of experience and meaning conveyed in those two lines. It’s a song that, in the months since I first heard it, has absolutely haunted me in the most wonderful, emotionally devastating of ways, and is absolutely one of the best songs released this year.
Which, in some ways, can make it harder to focus on the rest of the album without this reviewing becoming twice as long as my usual word count. ‘Manouvre’ brings the driving post-hardcore force that Jawbox could harness so well, whilst ‘Port Talbot’ is a slow, haunting epic that’s like Fugazi covering a long-lost Slint song. Finally, closer ‘The Rope’ is a slow-burner full of bleak, heart-rending power, the kind of song that speaks of life events that have so much left a scar but a wound that absolutely refuses to heal, stabbing raw and urgent when it’s least expected.
All of which might make Come Closer Now sound like a difficult album to listen to – and, in some ways, it is. When this album connects, it does so with all the force of the 1am phone call from a hospital payphone telling you not to panic, but get here as quick as you can. And yet, for all the hurt and bleakness it can put across, Come Closer Now also speaks of deep, meaningful connections; of that fact that, if something hurts, it’s a reminder that it actually meant something to you – that, no matter how bad things get, you can find a way to survive it and move on. It will ask a lot of you, but Come Closer Now has a lot to give, and is a surprise highlight of the year thus far.