Fresh off of the release of 2017’s sophomore album, okay., UK pop-punks As It Is have returned with their darkest, deepest, and most creative project to date. Welcome to The Great Depression. This 2018 concept album was prefaced with three singles prior to release. It isn’t the hopeless romantic lyricism featured on Never Happy, Ever After, and the guitars don’t shimmer as bright as they did on okay. Instead, The Great Depression is a collection of As It Is’ best work, embracing post-hardcore while still keeping an alternative rock swing. The end result is a home run.
First and foremost, The Great Depression is a concept record about the romanticization of mental illness, political discourse, and other issues our society faces. The album is written from the perspective of musician, The Poet. The album highlights his confrontation with death and his role in society. The message itself might be fictional, but it feels all too real.
Among the album announcement, As It Is were nearly written off as mid-2000’s era MySpace emo ripoffs paying tribute to My Chemical Romance with their dyed hair, red and black suits, and eyeliner. Like okay.‘s bold new 1950’s aesthetic that discussed mental health, The Great Depression, is covered in branding.
So many tracks on the album absolutely shine. The Panic! At the Disco-esque intro, and title track, is an interesting kickoff, showcasing the band’s newer sound which doesn’t reminisce the album’s predecessors at all. “The Wounded World” – the album’s lead single – is an emotional tribute to the political discourse in America, and across the world, with a message that tells us we are in this together, and that we are all to blame.
“The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)” discusses the topic of toxic masculinity, telling The Poet “stay strong, hold on, you’ve gotta keep it together now.” While the chorus absolutely soars, the following track, “The Handwritten Letter,” is somehow even better and a definitive favorite. The song is about a letter written to the Poet’s lover. The track is also tied to the topic of toxic masculinity that erases the stigma of “boys can’t have feelings.” An emotional and tugging ballad, “The Question, The Answer,” sits afterwards that questions The Poet’s confrontation with death.
The Aaron Gillespie featured, “The Reaper,” and “The Two Tongues” are among the lowest points on The Great Depression. “The Truth I’ll Never Tell” picks back up an emotional and pop-punk-sounding As It Is. The song sounds the most like the band’s previous work with a chorus that you’ll want to shout so loudly. “The End.” is a concluding number with an emotional chorus (“nobody’s listening”) and a spoken word bridge [“Am I awake, or am I asleep? Is this the end, or just another dream? How can you tell, when you can’t feel what can’t be seen, but oh my god is it real. Because I don’t need you to see this. And I don’t want you to feel this. But I only have so much spark to offer in all this darkness. And I screamed for you until the day I gave up and lost my voice, so with crimson arms and this broken neck, you fucking tell me who made this choice].
The most impressive credit on the album is the excellent production by Gene “The Machine” Freeman. As someone who wasn’t as much of a fan of the production by Mike Green on okay. compared to James Paul Wisner’s work on Never Happy, Ever After. Patty Walters’ vocals have improved, but the band have also seemed to stop relying on guitarist/vocalist Ben Biss’ deeper vocal lines to balance out the higher pitched lines thrown by Walters. Biss will offer his backing vocals, but only actually sings clearly on one or two songs. Instead, the band developed a heavier sound on The Great Depression, which brings Walters’ vocals to life. This album is a contender for your newest Spotify and streaming libraries/playlists, and even might be up for album of the year consideration within its respective alternative genre as this year starts to wind down. As It Is have clearly outdone themselves and the future looks very bright for them.