This third release from Brooklyn’s Augustines is a change of pace from their rather frantic and emotional past. Renowned for an intense live experience and fronted by a captivating narrator in Billy McCarthy, Augustines produced one of the albums of 2014 when they released their self titled sophomore effort. This new album is pared down, with cleaner production and more mainstream in its content. To know the Augustines work to date is to understand this is far from a safe option though. They have resisted the urge to roll out from their extensive catalogue another brooding wrecking ball of an album; they have instead created an album heavy in synth and atmosphere.
Things burst into life with ‘Are We Alive’, which sees McCarthy bellow out his recognisable voice and it seems that life is as it always was. However when second single ‘When Things Fall Apart’ kicks in, the tempo drops and things go a bit ’80s. This style may cause some consternation among old fans that are still looking for their brash emotional brand of rock music. Instead, what the Augustines have shown on this record is that despite their relatively tender age and typical rock and roll upbringing, they are capable of drawing influence beyond the obvious and testing their musical limits.
And the album continues on to ‘Running In Place’ which is a strange blend of Jon Bon Jovi and a-ha (listen to it and you’ll know what I mean) and ‘May You Keep Well’ that introduces Senegalese legends Pape & Cheikh and a drum machine.
Somehow in their shrewd hands this range of styles still sounds deliberate and the album flows along nicely. If one was being critical the lyrical content features a few too many rock clichés, but it’s not at the expense of the listener’s enjoyment.
Title track ‘This Is Your Life’ is a stadium anthem in the making that builds nicely and contains the albums hands in the air moment and the mantra, “Knock me down my friend; I’ll just get back up again”. This is a band that goes for an infectious chorus and a strong rhythm section, and this album features plenty. It will be interesting to see the output and reaction when they tour this album later this year. I suspect they have enough credit in the bank to try a new thing or two.
Change isn’t always good, but when it’s well intentioned and as thoughtful as this departure from the rock scene is for Augustines it can be a good thing and is an admirable decision. Their next move is one to watch with interest.
This Is Your Life is out now via Caroline International.
James Van Praag