Inventive emo riffs snake over thrash metal powerchords while the hardcore punk vocals spit the lyrics. Earl Grey have taken the potential trappings of watered-down pop-punk and added just a dash of venom to the cocktail.

The Times You Cross My Mind, is an uneasy listen. Not that the music is is overwhelmingly dark or dissonant. But because it veers so close to cliché’s abyss and only narrowly avoids the edge.

For all those emo riffs’ inventiveness, they are still distinctly emo. And for all the vocals’ venom, the occasional snippet of very typically “angsty” lyricism pushes its way through the larynx-tearing haze and sends an involuntary cringe down the length of one’s spine.

Earl Grey are not demolishing the boundaries of sub-genre on this five track EP. Rather, they are operating within the limits of a sub-genre in a very creative way.

If you’ve never heard anything like this before than you haven’t been listening. The screens and airwaves of rock stations across our humble blue-green planet are awash with similar sounding bands. However, it’d be fair to say you’ve never heard anything quite like this before.

Which is an art unto itself: making a worthwhile and creative stamp on a well-worn genre. Gaslight Anthem did it with a mixture of highway rock and punk. Earl Grey have taken some of the more classic elements of the various ”post-“ genres and combined them into five deceptive songs.

Deceptive because it would be all too easy to simply write off Earl Grey as another band pedalling angst to a black-clad niche market. But, upon deeper listening, it becomes clear that this band are crafting their music with care and passion.

Nothing, the opening track, clocks in at a none-more-punk 1:37. The benchmark for short, shocking tracks was set high by the likes of Bad Brains who could assault an audience with undiluted aggression in under thirty seconds. And Nothing doesn’t quite hit that high mark. It crams far too many ideas into too short a timespan and screams past too quickly to even leave a memorable adrenaline rush.

The Times You Cross My Mind’s other four tracks leave a much deeper impression. Being of more average length, the various musical ideas are given sufficient space to imprint themselves on a listener’s memory. The various rhythmic shifts are simultaneously arresting and off-putting. This ain’t dancing music. Nor do Earl Grey hold a beat long enough to get a steady moshing going.

The flip-side to this onslaught of ideas is that it’s made clear as polished crystal that Earl Grey are teeming with ideas and are not shy of letting people know that. There’s not many bands, in this or any genre, willing/able to do that. 

by James Fleming

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