(feat. track – “Quake” [spotify])

Separation takes the rudiments of Sunny Day Real Estate’s grungy proto-emo (and Jeremy Enigk’s gravelly keen) and slops on top of it a heavy Sapone-influenced crust, the sort that covered Brand New’s Daisy and Sainthood Reps’ Monoculture. (There’s also, dare I say, more than a hint of Seven Mary Three in the mix. Is that considered sacrilege?)  It’s as ornery a record as I’ve heard all year, lyrically and sonically, a hissyfit, a temper tantrum, unguarded and unfiltered and unafraid. It both sounds and feels like dirt under the fingernails.

Which all might seem terribly unappealing, but the utter freshness of the sound and the skill with which Balance & Composure execute it make Separation truly compelling.  It’s been a long long time since anyone’s really done this kind of thing, and even longer since it’s been done this well. For me, there’s definitely an element of throwback appeal. And yet Balance & Composure have successfully courted a fanbase that, in large part, was born during grunge’s dying days and came of listening age at a time when alt-rock was about as uncool as hair metal in 1993.

Ultimately, regardless of whether you view it as a new thing or as merely the zenith of old-thing revivalism, Separation is something special: one hell of a beautiful ugly album.  If this is where the grunge revival begins (and really, it’s just about time for that cycle, right?) then I can only look forward to wherever it might go from here.