Every once in a while an artist releases something that unlike any of their previous efforts, keeping the audience on their toes about any possible expectations and hopefully feeling fresh and relevant while doing it. That adequately describes the sound and fury of Micah Schnabel‘s new EP Not The Boy You Used To Know. Our hard and fast rule about not reviewing EPs can at times be anything but, and new music from one of the songwriters behind Ninebullets stalwart Two Cow Garage is obviously going to snap that rule in half.
The album opens with “Scared of Heights”, the song most sonically similar to Micah’s previous solo offerings. As the song goes on, however, you’ll hear plenty that’s new: carefully placed electric guitar hovering in the background, a joyful organ, and perhaps most notably a greater maturity and resonance in Schnabel’s voice. These songs are the closest to his speaking voice that I’ve heard him sing, and that lends an earnest and frank tone. In many ways this isn’t the same man who penned “American Static” or “Cut Me, Mick”, and he lets us know that up front.
“Awe shucks I’m just happy to be here
But I’m not your little brother anymore.”
I’ve covered another two of the songs, “More Drugs” and “Bang! Bang! Bang!” for the site previously, and I still stand by everything I said. There are songs about the past and songs that use the past as framing for the future; all of Micah’s reminiscing on Not The Boy You Used To Know is decidedly the latter. While I may disagree about the existence of objective “good” and “bad” (it could just be my heavily D&D influenced childhood), I’m 100% with everyone trying to take themselves less seriously.
This maturity is on full display in the EP’s title track and centerpiece. It has a tempo, a melody, a drive and urgency, a vintage sound (complete with doo-wop background singers)…plenty of things that might not be expected to mesh well with Micah’s wry writing and blunt delivery, but this album is all about smashing expectations. None of us are the people we used to be, and if we don’t like the people we are now we can sure as hell change that now.
“I just got so tired of trying to rock the boat
So I’m sinking this fucking ship, and I am hoping that I float
I would take the thousand deaths of a sailor lost at sea
Than swim safely into shore on the wave of mediocrity”
Not The Boy You Used To Know is a stellar reminder of the absurdity and fragility in life, and the message is clear: if you don’t like where the current is taking you, sink the fucking ship.
Head over to Micah’s Bandcamp to pick up a digital or physical copy of the EP, check out his Big Cartel store, and follow him on Twitter. While you’re at it, check out Two Cow Garage at their upcoming shows!