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Album Review: Merci by Save Face

Alt rock act Save Face release their debut album Merci on 13th July via Epitaph. A concept album, part of what vocalist/guitarist Tyler Povanda calls an “ambitious multi-media art project”, telling the story of an addict. After a stint in rehab, the album’s protagonist Kaleb feels that they’re slipping back into old drug habits and decides to leave their fiancée, Blake, to spare ruining Blake’s life as Kaleb slips into a paranoia-fueled meltdown.

“Kaleb needs to make this choice,” explains Povanda, “of ‘If I do fall, not only will I bring myself down, but I’ll be bringing down this person with me; a person that I perceive as perfect and purely good, and who’s only fault was loving someone as flawed as me. If I do that, am I going to be able to live with myself?’ So, Kaleb decides to leave. But in doing that, both of them end up in the hospital and they both die.”

It’s the tragic consequences of that decision which form the thematic core of this narrative, which takes place in France (hence the album’s title). At a base level, the story was inspired by the various relationships formed and dissolved over the last two years and the experiences Povanda had throughout that time. “You make decisions based on what you think is in your ‘best interest’,” he says, “but looking back, it becomes clear that things are never that black and white” – but this urgent, visceral, playful, indie-tinged album has been carefully crafted to tell a story that can be much bigger than that.

The singer goes on to say, “I’m a big fan of drama and theatre – I love Broadway. Queen is my favourite band of all time and one of my favourite things about them and some of my other favourite artists how they incorporate dramatic tension in their music – and we want to make diverse, multi-faceted art. It’s not just a bunch of songs. You can listen to them that way and that’s totally fine, but there’s also more there if you want to go deeper. I think the biggest challenge is writing something that has merit in an artistic context while still being palatable and digestible for an average listener. I want someone to put these songs on while they’re having a great day the same way they can listen to it while going through a crisis.”

It certainly has ideas of grandeur, especially for what is a good alt rock album. To be perfectly honest, going into the album without this information would enable you to enjoy it more. The content of the album could be attributed to any number of Weezer-esque emo-lite albums released in the last ten years. It’s not ground-breaking, it’s not clever and it’s not particularly relevant. It adds unnecessary pomp and circumstance to what could have been a strong alt rock album.

Take the ‘concept’ nonsense out of the equation and you’ve got the basis of some excellent tracks. ‘Weak’ and ‘Blues’ are early highlights with ‘Jonesin’’ having a delectable stomping riff and groove. You’ll enjoy the whimsy of ‘Plans’ and the inoffensive pop rock of ‘Reds’. Then you’ll remember that we told you about the ‘concept’ and you’ll find it difficult to get past the notion that the album has ideas above its station.

AD Rating 6/10



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