Music

Hop Along: Get Disowned

Get Disowned may share musical DNA with Painted Shut, but to see the former in the shadow of the latter is to miss an album with its own goals, personality, and raw-nerved epics.


Hop Along

Get Disowned

US Release: 2016-03-04
Label: Saddle Creek
UK Release: 2016-03-04
Label Website
Amazon
iTunes

Get Disowned, Hop Along's 2012 debut, is clearly being reissued thanks to the success of their sophomore record, the excellent Painted Shut. But to see the first record in the shadow of the second is a mistake. That we have the chance to reconsider -- or consider for the first time -- Get Disowned doesn't mean we need hear it as preamble to the band's breakthrough record. Instead, it feels like its own unique set, a sibling to its follow-up but one that left the house a long time ago. These albums share a musical DNA, but they have totally different goals, different personalities.

This should be clear enough on Get Disowned opener "Some Grace". The acoustic tune rolls in jangly ruts and circles more than it ever looks for a hook to latch onto. It's a misleading song, especially if you're inclined to compare it to Painted Shut, as it suggests a rougher edge to this record. But multiple listens, of this song and the album, show the elements are just as polished and it is, instead, the wild shifts and seemingly disconnected peaks and valleys that make these songs sound not only forceful but also almost confrontational in their structures. "It's time to exit with some grace," Frances Quinlan sings on the opener, "now that you've given all you know how to." It's this scraped-out emotional space the record starts from, an isolation that comes from going too far, or too far in the wrong direction, rather than not going far enough.

The same can be true of these songs in that they absolutely push their borders as far as they go. That they often avoid that wrong direction is what makes Get Disowned so thrilling. It takes the loud-quiet-loud set up to extremes on songs like "Diamond Mine", and the poles become even more stark with Quinlan's voice, which can shift from heartbreaking coo to sternum splitting buzz saw on a single note. The jagged shifts of the song work for a narrator so violently running from their religious past, where they may have a "Rottweiler smile", but the holy spirit turned away first. When Quinlan finally shouts "There are some parents whose children long for divorce," it's a triumphant truth, the sound of a voice clattering with the broken links of a newly busted chain.

This kind of freedom, all over the record (including oddly in the title), is both scary and to be feared. The narrator of "Tibetan Pop Stars" goes to great lengths to invent a story to explain their lover's absence. On "No Good Al Joad", Quinlan details a character whose "engine is still running, though the gears are covered in grime," while men fire shotguns out of second-story windows and birds claw at nests and each other. Who's free here is unclear, and who's running from what we can't say, but it all feels jostled loose, untethered, full of the most dangerous kind of potential.

It contrasts nicely with the heartbreaking stuckness of "Laments", where relationship stories get told by the furniture that can't move away from all the fighting, the leaving, the absence. In these songs and all over Get Disowned, the first nascent steps of freedom -- from the past, from family, from relationships, from baggage -- feel like the first swings in a long fight. Of course, sometimes they're just the careless sprint towards anything else, while other times each powerful, blistering moment of these songs, all isolation and freedom boiled up in them, feels just plainly alive.

Where Painted Shut built small worlds and characters -- see, for example, the room and the people filling it in "Waitress" -- Get Disowned has a focus on the interior life. The details are still achingly specific, but the effect feels less directed at one person and more intent on articulating the feeling rather than the getting past it. Without clear context, it'd be easy to read these songs as autobiography, and it's unlikely there wasn't some honest blood spilt in the writing of these songs. The great thing about Get Disowned is it feels cathartic not because it makes sense of feeling or loss of isolation, but because it so messily knits them altogether. If Painted Shut built rooms, Get Disowned built head spaces, and just as effectively.

There are moments, but very few moments, when the album's poles stretch too far apart, when the threadbare quiet finally sprouts a kind of hole that the following noise just falls in. But this, too, feels like another driving tension in the record. Get Disowned never bails out, and it never lets the listener bail, either. It's not an album of promise. It's not the start of something. It's its own definitive statement, perhaps because these raw-nerved, twisted up little epics seem so rooted in the indefinite, the unknown, the stuff we slog through every day.

8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2018 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.