The Number Twelve Looks Like You
Worse Than Alone
posted on 5/2009 By:
I won't pretend that I'm wickedly familiar with The Number Twelve Looks Like You, aside from the occasional track sample and the odd review, both positive and negative, all of which combined just cancel out and make me indifferent toward (or more accurately, "somewhat wary of") this bunch of spastic genre-blending overlong-monikered New Jersey-ites. Reviews notwithstanding, that ridiculous band name alone was enough to turn me off for awhile, even if it is a "Twilight Zone" reference. But of late, I’ve been attempting to step outside my comfort zone, and with that in mind, I decided to explore this record, having read a few blurbs that declared it a step forward for the band in terms of remaining cohesive and actually engaging the listener. And if that’s the case, then I’m happy I’m not that familiar with previous efforts.
Worse Than Alone is not going to change my opinion on the whole mathcore sound, but wait! On the other hand, Worse Than Alone is not the complete mess I expected to hear, not the incoherent collision of notes and rhythms that I seem to find whenever I decide to delve into the Between The Buried And Me scene. It’s still a mess—oh, God, yes, it’s a goddamn mess; it still jumps from one idea to the next with a complete disinterest in the casual listener’s ability to keep up; it’s still filled with tightly synchronized multi-instrument runs that substitute flash for substance, arpeggios for actual riffs. But yet, there are fleeting moments of quality amid the chaos, and maybe even enough of those that stand still long enough to make Worse Than Alone (gasp) interesting in parts. And hey, maybe therein lies that "step forward" I mentioned above... (I’m not certain that two or three or maybe even twelve steps forward wouldn’t have been a better move, but that’s an argument for another time.) But again, it’s still a mess. The genre-defining spasticity excluded, the vocals are the weakest link on hand, alternating between a hardcore shout and high-pitched screaming, with the occasional clean crooning moment for good measure, and doing none of them particularly brilliantly. (Noteworthy in that regard: Worse Than Alone is the band’s last full-length to feature founding co-vocalist Justin Pedrick, who departed after "a long struggle with depression and anxiety.") The musicianship is truly skilled, but yet the songwriting is as horribly disjointed as one would expect from the style.
But focus on the positive! What of these interesting parts, you say? Well, take, for example, the jazz fusion-meets-Santana moments of a song like "The Garden’s All Nighters," which offers a needed and pleasant respite from the first two minutes of typical math-madness, before settling into a hardcore riff that’s strong (but still not strong enough to transcend the grating shrieks that whichever vocalist layers atop it). Other moments sound like King Crimson and Fugazi side by side, and both of those influences are certainly commendable. Yet, overall, Worse Than Alone still falls prey to the same pitfalls that plague virtually every Ion Dissonance / Dillinger Escape clone around—the same "too many ideas that go nowhere" calamity.
As is the case with every record, your appreciation of this depends on your appreciation of the style, of its strengths and weaknesses, and I will admit that I don’t get this. Maybe you can find more sense in the madness than what I hear. I can’t say that I’ll return to Worse Than Alone given the choice, even if it’s markedly better than previous efforts or even markedly better than what I expected. Of the comparable records I own, this Number Twelve may be closer to the heralded (Between The Buried And Me) than the maddening (The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza), but nonetheless, I sure don’t get it.
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