In short; ASSEMBLAGE 23 (A23) hails from the USA and releases some of the finest music, in the industrial genre. He has a large and very loyal following around the World and is one of the nicest guys you can hope to meet in or out of the music industry.
The man behind the music – Tom Shear – was good enough to allow me to review his latest offering and to give me a short interview. (The interview was published prior to this review)
What I will say is this; Tom and I have been friends for a number of years and chances of a bad review were always slim but this new long-player surpassed even my high expectations! Something very seldom done in reviews is a complete track by track breakdown but this really does deserve it.
MOURN is a storybook of epic proportions in the life of Tom Shear. A storybook of smiles through the tears. MOURN is not only the life of Tom Shear; it could quite easily be any one of us.
If you follow A23 or Tom Shear on social media you’ll think you know what this song is about before you hear the lyrics. Tom is a thought provoking lyricist who wears his heart on his sleeve so, chances are, you’d be correct.
The lyrics will resonate with all of us who have lived and loved; laughed and cried.
It is a wall of the usual A23 electronic perfection over which Tom pours out his heart.
I find no shame in saying that this was the first of a few songs on the album where I shed a tear.
Uptempo but you need to listen to those lyrics!!
This has the signature A23 sound but it’s bigger and it’s more refined than ever before. Filter sweeps; I love filter sweeps!
Industrial sounding bass and incidental sounds herald the arrival of the unmistakable voice of Tom Shear as he leads the listener into another world with a soundscape of trademark A23 pads that swirl and float through the sonic space of your head.
There’s the kick drum!!
Every A23 album has at least one track that brings death by kick drum! It’s a fine way to go though. You feel the song as much as you hear it.
A slightly detuned percussive lead transports us into a dystopian world of anxiety as this film soundtrack worthy song drives the album on…
My favourite track from the album and may take A23 fans by surprise. It is epic!
This is the song Depeche Mode have been trying to write for the last few albums. It is slow tempo electronic perfection. The word perfection is easy to throw around and hard to justify but let me say it again… this song is perfection!
Dave Gahan wants to prance around his living room to this. Martin Gore is cursing Tom Shear. I have the chills and I swear under my breath as I silently wish I had written this song — damn you Shear!!
It has the hairs on my neck standing to attention from the second verse till the end and I could go on about it forever but the editor in chief would string me up…
Just as I recover from track 5… A23 hit me with this one.
If track 5 is worthy of a full five stars then this is 4.8 stars.
“I’m not looking for a saviour” croons Mr Shear. Dark electronic music may just have found one with tracks 5 & 6…
This track is worthy of mainstream chart placement and the crying shame is that it will be denied such acclaim due to the genre of music. The fact that the mainstream of contemporary music remains blind to songs such as this is verging on criminal. (Tom said in my interview that mainstream recognition is not something that he craves).
You would think that a song with such a title would not be conducive to dancing around your living room as though no-one was watching. You’d be wrong! Dance I tell thee; dance.
You hear the lyrics and you feel bad about dancing but you can’t stop. The World is getting a telling off and a wagging finger of disdain but you don’t care. You are going to dance as the four horsemen come galloping towards you
Choral pads and a cool bass line lead us into this one.
“You could’ve talked to me / You could’ve reached out / You could’ve listened to me / But instead you chose to run your mouth”
The rest of the lyrics are personal to the writer but we could all put our own story in their place; we’ve all been there at some point.
Another BIG tune by the way…
Another song; another life lesson.
A well crafted, recorded and produced piece of life-pop (I think I have just invented a new genre.)
Once again A23 bring lyrics that make you think and music that helps you forget.
THIS HOUSE IS EMPTY
More industrial percussion always meets with my approval so we are off to a good start in the final track.
An uptempo, hard hitting track where Tom advocates burning down a house… whether that house is real or metaphorical it has no place in the life of Mr Shear.
Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned down; you can dance whilst Tom Shear burns down a house.
Disclaimer – I am in no way comparing Tom Shear with Nero or advocating arson!
A23 is not a boy band; A23 does not bring you lollipops and unicorns (*copyright of Chester Bennington).
A23 brings you real life packaged up in some damn fine music. Sometimes you laugh; sometimes you cry but his lexicon of life will always make you think.
The song titles and the album name give the game away; this is not a slab of throwaway pop. It’s another chapter in the life of Tom Shear. It’s the latest leg of his journey and it’s a privilege to be his travel companion.
If you haven’t heard A23 before then I expect you’ll be pleasantly surprised by MOURN.
If you’ve been on the A23 journey and you think you know what destination MOURN is going to bring; think again.
This is by far his best work and it’s a destination you’ll come back to more than once – a bit like WGT (if you know, you know)
MOURN is available in the following formats
CD regular edition
CD 20 track deluxe edition
12 track vinyl special edition
Digital release on all usual platforms