At one time, Samiam was a household name (in certain households, anyway). They were a solid punk rock band with a sound similar to Jawbreaker and a bunch of great albums. After releasing their sixth album Astray in 2000, they sort of broke up. Some band members went on to other projects, and while Samiam still did the occasional tour, I was pretty certain we'd heard the last release from this great band. I was wrong on that one.
Well Worth The Wait
After a six-year break, Whatever's Got You Down doesn't even try to pick up where they left off, which is really good. If you were blown away by those first Alkaline Trio albums when they first came out, and emo wasn't yet a bad word, you'll dig Samiam's latest. Whatever's Got You Down isn't slick; it's a dirty punk rock album made up of a mix of hardcore guitar riffs and intricate melodies, and rather than go for radio-friendly gloss, the band has a sound that's warm, organic and real.
Don't You Dare Call These Lyrics Emo!
While there are a lot of "love gone wrong"-type songs on this album, frontman Jason Beebout's songwriting and delivery boast a sincerity that most modern emo bands can only dream about. The songs are neither melodramatic nor saccharine; they're real and just a bit in your face. And right now, as I peruse the liner notes looking for a really emo-typical line to point out, I have to say there really aren't any there. These lyrics are sincere and heartfelt, but never trite or cliche.
A Warning On Operating Heavy Machinery
The cover of the album has one of those optical illusions made popular on black light posters sold at certain finer shops. When viewed from the corner of your eye, the wheels on the cover appear to spin. A word of warning - if you're playing this album in your car, don't leave the CD case on your passenger seat! The swirling images on the cover are quite a distraction. I could totally cause an accident. Nobody wants that.
These past six years have been definitely kind to Samiam's sound; it's dropped some polish and gained integrity. If this is the direction they're going to continue to move in, I hope it's not six years before their next release.