The Great Depression is pop punk quartet As It Is' third stab at a full length LP. Throughout its twelve tracks, the band attempt to provide a social narrative unlike anything they have approached before; pushing questions towards society’s current take on mental health, and the stigmas that come along with it. The lyrical themes are raw and personal, yet hidden within the easy-listening style of classic pop punk music. As a result of this direction change, it’s clear that As It Is are taking risks with this record, weaving a story into a coherent and thought-provoking record.
The record begins its mental health assault with the title track, and its flirtation with pop music - it's an interesting way to kick things off with sincere lyrics and a hefty punchline though. This introduction quickly morphs into a classic As It Is song, filled with big guitar hooks, energetic drum fills, and catchy lyrics. This track introduces "The Poet" - a character created to explore the themes of this record. While musically, there doesn’t seem to be any great leaps forward for As It Is, conceptually and lyrically the band have shown how they’ve matured in their years together.
A change of tone throughout the album can be picked up on, as the music slowly grows heavier, highlighting different influences on the band. ‘The Fire, The Dark’ is one such track, opening with two contrasting guitar riffs, and snarling vocals. The chorus leans again towards pop music, very light and delicate and highlighting the contrast present in the title - and the rest of the song.
The bands dive into experimentation becomes clear with the opening of ‘The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)’; creating atmosphere with the distortion layered over singing, it gives the listener the feeling of hearing a radio that isn’t perfectly tuned to a station. The distortion quickly morphs into big guitar riffs, which slow to a lull for the verse. The story of this album feels to be most obvious here, accentuated by the music which neither has too much going on, nor too little. The choruses are weightier, with big riffs and lyrics that prompt thoughts and questions surrounding the themes of the album.
‘The Truth I’ll Never Tell’ follows, continuing the narrative with lyrics that highlight the struggles of speaking out about the struggles of life. It’s another song that doesn’t inundate the you with an onslaught of different aspects of music. Frontman Patty Walters’ vocals do sound more at home in the surroundings of pop though, with the upbeat feel of the music somewhat masking the brutally honest nature of the lyrics.
Sitting as one of the more stunning tracks on the record is ‘The Hurt, The Hope’. Walters’ vocals are tender and filled with emotion, and the gentle synths paired with electronic drums creates stunning atmosphere. There is growth and lulls in this track, the band gradually introducing (and removing) parts of a full drum kit and distorted guitars. The lyrics here are filled with hope, and stand out amidst the gentler music of this song.
Topics such as mental health can be difficult to tackle for even the most established of artists, yet As It Is have managed to weave a narrative that carries both a heartbreaking and hopeful message. When taken at face value, it feels just like any other pop punk album; there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking in the music that they’ve made, and certain elements, such as the overused pop punk sound can feel gimmicky.
When you dive into the pores of this album though, plenty of care and emotion has been poured into its finished product, the themes drawing on real life alongside the make-believe that creates the storyline. This LP is coherent, it flows and has plenty of feeling - there’s no denying that As It Is are an ambitious band, and the risk they took with this conceptual album has paid off.