“Have you waited long enough?” snarls Mat Kerekes on Medicine, found on new album As You Please. The Answer is yes Mat. Yes we have. It’s been two years since Ohio/Michigan’s CITIZEN last released a full length. Two years of relentlessly touring. Two years conquering shows and festivals slots on both sides of the pond has left avid fans eagerly waiting in wonder which direction the five-piece will head in next.
Opener Jet announces CITIZEN‘s most familiar territory, steeped in the closest you’ll get to a racing tempo with this lot. Vocalist Kerekes produces a vitriolic, pent-up frustration that runs right through the band’s third album; a cacophony of harmonised vocal layers creep up time and again to produce a sound that threatens to explode throughout all twelve tracks. This time around, with Will Yip firmly behind the mixing desk once more, the overall production is far bigger and tighter, giving CITIZEN scope to breathe and combine sounds explored on both of their previous albums — offered here as a dynamic that works.
Having started their career straight out of high school, CITIZEN delved deep into the recesses of their youth on debut album (aptly named Youth), presenting a gut-wrenching glimpse into teenage angst, suicide, heartbreak and addiction; reading like the personal diary of Kerekes and co. With Nick Hamm and Ryland Oehlers put through their paces producing darker paths on guitar, 2015’s Everybody Is Going To Heaven saw the band shirk off grungier tones and explore more menacing musical concepts — bringing in sludgier bass segments that rumbled with aggression in a brooding bed of drums. Now, with the same fervent poetry, As You Please is CITIZEN maturing with confidence.
In The Middle Of It All is the most hopeful track on the record: made hauntingly voluminous with pop-inspired, choral vocals. It’s an ear-worm worthy addition to what on the surface is an album drowning in glorious despair, the perspective from the bands lyrical songwriting shifted from an inward looking, personal account, to that of a narrator confronting strife in the world around us.
“Transient soul / You utter my hymn from under your breath/ Abandoned one / You’ve learned to forgive but I have not yet” is delivered with a nostalgic intensity in Discrete Routine: “There’s a crowd in front of me, I just don’t care / I hear a thousand people sing, I feel nothing” packs an emotional-wrecking punch in World, while “Head full of ketamine / Throw yourself into your hole / Bite into the flesh that controls you” in I Forgive No One is delivered with such a foreboding bitterness, it makes you wonder how by album number three there’s still so much pain in the minds of CITIZEN?
While rhythms, tempos and melodies don’t change too much throughout As You Please, a formula is quickly established by the time the title track lands, starting off sluggish and gloomy before exploding in a flourish of inescapable brutality carried without any beat-downs. And it’s a formula that works.
By the time balladic closer Flowerchild comes around CITIZEN have already taken the listener on a journey of agonising sorrow that culminates in a beautiful, blistering finale. As You Please is CITIZEN at their darkest, but not at their heaviest, and it makes for a record that deserves to be played again as soon as it lapses into deafening silence.
As You Please is set for release on October 6th via Run For Cover Records.
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