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Artwork by Bucky Fereke

Review: The Only Things – You Can’t Rush Genius

I personally don’t come from a punk rock background. When it seemed everyone else was listening to Against Me! and The Offspring, I sought out 2005-era hipster mainstays like Cursive, and hometown early 2000’s heroes Harris

If those were your influences, you might very much get on well with You Can’t Rush Genius. But my pure blood lacking of any staining influences of punk, it should be a given that You Can’t Rush Genius by The Only Things would only resonate insomuch that I know the members personally, and have admired their musicianship for as long as I’ve known them.

This record is punk, but it’s also rock, and it’s riffy, and it’s emotionally raw. The record embodies a homegrown sound I feel typifies Lowell, almost totally just by the force of The Only Things and their contributions to our fair scene. 

I don’t love punk, but I love The Only Things, and You Can’t Rush Genius continues the band’s reputation as a Lowell outfit consistently upending the table of their own sound ever closer to its own essence; always moving forward. 

Compared to previous releases like Dandelion and 2015’s Last Rite, You Can’t Rush Genius is deeper in all appropriate definitions of the word. Whereas past releases were highly-stacked assaults of searing rock energy, this is a record your mind can walk around within. 

Old Only Things is like a melodic Jackson Pollock painting in its full-frontal, 2-dimensional volume. It’s difficult to take in all at once, but I couldn’t help but to be drawn in by the swirling guitars and Donny’s almost tear-choked lyrical deliveries. The old stuff drew something for you.

You Can’t Rush Genius takes a step inward to let the listener have some space. The compositions are not typically constructed—the title track, a haunting rockabilly yarn with an infectious head riff, explodes into one of the band’s most emotionally-charged choruses ever. I found myself singing along before I even knew the words. This song builds interiors for you to exist in.

A Deeper Sound to Dance In

A lot of this record’s dimensionality is thanks to the work of recording studio Bleeding Ear Audio (which is admittedly owned and operated by the band’s bass player Eric Cline and Dana Horan, some other guy who plays drums, but not in The Only Things) and The Ranch Mastering. Over previous releases, the music here gives space for the players’ finer melodic choices to be admired, evidenced in the very beautiful and spacey guitars that open up the second verse of “Could It/Couldn’t.” 

The strongest track is without a doubt “Suffering.” I remember the first time I heard it performed at a show (I don’t remember which show, or when the show was, but only the fact that I was definitely there) and the band wailed the first verse riff and I instinctively and unambiguously was air guitaring in front of other people. It immediately arrested me in a way few local bands’ music ever does. 

Which brings me to the reason You Can’t Rush Genius is a true heavy hitter. Going in blind, a listener wouldn’t need to chew on anything, as all the barriers to local music listening are smashed to pieces—the recording is of a high quality, the songs draw you in deep like catchy pop tunes, and their subject matter is instantly relatable, even on a philosophical level. My favorite example of those moments in songs that burn of searing life advice is the bridge of the title track:

“It’s not the face you fuck,

It’s the fuck you’re faced with.”

On first listen of “Unfriend Me” you’ll be sketching together the inspiration for Donny’s lyrics not only because of their sheer poetic power: the words come off almost as an undeliverable groundswell of emotion. This record lives and breathes in its own world, a feat not commonly achieved by local bands. The songs have lessons to deliver, and the musicianship and sound quality deliver you to your own room to listen, even while standing in a crowd.

I suggest your first listen is with a good pair of headphones worth $100 or more. If you do, I’ll be asking you, “Doesn’t this record rip?” – Al Gentile