Anthony Green: 'Would You Still Be in Love' Review
I don't think I'm alone in thinking that Anthony Green's last two albums haven't exactly been standout. While I enjoyed both Young Legs and Pixie Queen, they were more what I would describe as acquired tastes, and suffered from the lack of a song like "Moon Song" or "Dear Child" to hook new listeners (or those who may have been enticed by his superior work in Circa Survive). Last year, Green's band Circa Survive put out what was perceived by many as a return to form with The Amulet, getting back to the themes and ambiance of their original albums. In a lot of ways, Would You Still Be In Love achieves the same feat for Green's solo work, keeping some of the darker themes of his recent songwriting but embracing the pop sensibilities that helped him rise to prominence as a solo artist.
WYSBIL can't be accused of being overproduced. Coming in at less than a half hour, with only 9 songs, Green's new record is incredibly stripped down, featuring primarily his vocals and acoustic guitar. Light bells and percussion are added to a few songs, along with the spare use of harmonies and backing vocals, but for the most part, this is a solo album in the purest sense, just a man and his guitar. Opening with "Vera Lynn" is almost misleading. This song is jaunty, upbeat and a strong contender for the most appealing song on the album. High-pitched backing vocals, bells and cherubic help to create an optimistic atmosphere.
Next up is "Love," another pleasant song, though much slower in tempo. A very much traditional love song, extolling the power of love to the tune of acoustics and soft violin, "Love" has a dreamy quality to it, and walks a fine line between sweet and saccharine, but mostly succeeds. Almost abruptly, Green shifts into a darker string of songs, starting with "You're So Dead Meat," the vocals of which would not be out of place in a slower Circa Survive song. Green sings about "faces of doubt," God's vengeance and wonders about his role as an artist. This haunting song shifts almost imperceptibly into "Keep Your Mouth Shut," which takes the sadness of the previous song and turns it more towards anger. Green's passionate yell in the chorus contrasts with his normally smooth voice, making it especially affecting.
The change over into "When I Come Home," does highlight what I see as the biggest weakness of this album, albeit a small one. Many of the guitar melodies aren't actually that different from each other, and when you almost can't tell where one song ends and another begins, it can be a little confusing to listen to. Still, "When I Come Home," is another solid song very much a more downbeat side of the catchy tunes Green is popular for. Riding the melancholy of that song is the short but distinctly heavy-hearted "Changing Shape," followed by "Why Must We Wait," striking mainly because the verses actually seem more inventive and memorable than the choruses, which are standard Anthony Green/Circa Survive fare. "Little Death" is another highlight, a song about sex that somehow manages to sound both playful, calming and sinister. Green cleverly utilizes the often dark language that can be used to describe aspects of sex to add a dark undertone to what is otherwise a mostly fun and intimate song. WYSBIL ends with "Real Magic," which, as if the title wasn't a giveaway, is pretty damn corny. Maybe not the strongest way to end the album, but at this point, that seems like a minor complaint.
There is something enjoyable for everyone on this one, whether you are more a fan of Anthony Green's sweet and genuine love songs, his more playful pop songs, or his darker explorations into love and relationships. If Green played this album from beginning to end as his live set, I think I would feel satisfied as a music fan, having all of the tonal bases covered in a powerful and sometimes clever way.