Release Date: Feb 4, 2014
Record label: Votiv
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
In 2012 Augustines released their debut album, the emotionally raw, defiantly anthemic Rise Ye Sunken Ships. A record torn from vocalist/guitarist Billy McCarthy’s experiences with an alcoholic mother and a recently deceased brother, it was a tough, jagged listen made irresistible by its sweeping openness and epic instrumentation. Having added British drummer Rob Allen to their line-up (alongside McCarthy’s long-time bandmate, multi-instrumentalist Eric Sanderson) the Brooklynites have toured the world in support of that record, now returning with producer Peter Katis (who twiddled both Alligator and Boxer for The National) to offer us a self-titled follow-up.
The band formerly known as We Are Augustines makes a welcome return, and it is the third time that the band has, in one way or another, started from scratch. Singer/guitarist Billy McCarthy and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Eric Sanderson’s previous band Pela sadly dissolved in tumultuous circumstances before they had a chance to make the impression they should have. After a series of record company problems and personal tragedies, things could have ground to a halt, but McCarthy and Sanderson decided to continue working together and formed Augustines.
While Augustines’ debut full-length Rise, Ye Sunken Ships was inextricably tied to tragedy— its songs inspired by the suicide of singer Billy McCarthy’s brother—this self-titled second album sees the trio moving on from those dark, desperate times. McCarthy’s vocals are still as bruised and fragile as they were in 2011, but now they’re infused with a sense of optimism. “Cruel City,” for example, is a fond and forlorn farewell to New York, but its anthemic atmospherics brim with inspiring hope.
With their debut, We Are Augustines lay their beaten, bloodied hearts on the line. After years of hardship and pain, and a story of life quite unlike any other, their ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’ saw three men learning how to try and repair their souls. It was a brutal, honest portrayal of the hardest of times, and it gave their band the kind of chance it had long deserved.Now, having shed their former guise somewhat, the newly-titled Augustines prove that they’ve also shed that old weight from their shoulders.
Despite its success, Augustines’ debut album was the sort of thing you wouldn’t want to replicate – a record of deep sadness born out of the suicides of frontman Billy McCarthy’s mother and brother, both diagnosed schizophrenics. Little wonder, then, that their self-titled follow-up doesn’t pack anywhere near the same emotional wallop. Too often, ‘Augustines’ seeks to lift the listener with bumper-sticker optimism (‘Now You Are Free’, ’Don’t You Look Back’) and unearned catharsis, evoking everyone from Bruce Springsteen to U2 to – shamelessly and repeatedly – Arcade Fire, yet never quite convincing you of its sincerity.
Augustines are a Brooklyn-based trio , but not as you know it, shunning the contemporaries that phrase lumps them in with and cultivating a sound that places them among Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon. Their first album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, was an immediate and direct hit on the emotions, as singer and lead songwriter Billy McCarthy laid bare his family’s struggles with mental health problems. Its accessible, rousing communal choruses and exploration of dark days and coming out the other side spawned commercial (and, indeed, commercials) success.