Image via asitisofficial.com
On August 13th UK pop-punk band, As It Is, released their third full-length album, The Great Depression. The concept album tells the story of The Poet, an artist who is struggling with his mental health, his relationship with his wife, and his perception of death. At first, listening to The Great Depression may be off-putting due to its dark and explicitly honest themes. However, after spending more time with The Poet’s story, we see that it’s the same content that makes the album so uncomfortable that also makes it so important to society today.
Just over a month after the release of The Great Depression, Fuzzable has decided to share the importance of the album through our eyes.
The Great Depression opens with its title track, a song that gives off rock-opera vibes and introduces the listener to The Poet. In the song, The Poet speaks to us, the consumer, and reflects on how his art is a double-edged sword. Everything he creates is based on how he feels. His work is honest and discusses the dark themes that are constantly on his mind. His truthful work connects to his audience and while it does bring comfort to some, it may also bring harm to others. Self-identified as “the poet and the problem,” he admits to being guilty of partaking in the societal romanticization of mental illness. As It Is set up the album strongly with The Great Depression, introducing the main conflict before getting into its finer, yet equally important, details in the tracks to follow.
The first major theme addressed in the album is the topic of societal reactions. We are introduced to this idea in The Wounded World, the first single released off of the album. “Brothers, sisters, young and old: we’re all to blame for the wounded world,” are the first words heard in the song that not only pertains to The Poet’s world but also eerily portrays our own. As It Is discuss how when conflict occurs, most people are quick to point the finger at somebody else. Yet, in doing so, each accuser is also someone to blame. The band creates a call to action in order to improve our world for the better.
In The Fire The Dark, we are introduced to The Poet’s wife and their dysfunctional relationship. It is made clear that things are not how they used to be for the couple, with The Poet stating that he feels as if “she’s already gone.” The Poet’s anger is evident, but his confusion regarding the relationship also shows through. The gritty and intense song sets the scene for how the concept of relationships will continue to be discussed throughout the story.
The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry) is another song off of the album very directly tackling typical societal reactions, this time in terms of gender stereotypes. Specifically, the song tackles the idea then men are told not to show emotion. The Stigma can easily be misinterpreted as promoting the exact thing it’s cautioning against: toxic masculinity. To somebody listening to the album outside of its context, the song may even be counterproductive. However, the song starts a conversation. Whether the listener initially understands the intentions of the song or not, The Stigma creates important discussion around the gender stereotypes set by society and how those boxes continue to confine us all.
A song for the fans, The Handwritten Letter brings classic As It Is pop-punk style along with lyrics that connect to many. The Poet is left to read a letter that was written to him by his fans. The letter describes how his work has made a positive impact on other people’s lives. His work makes people feel like less of an outcast. He lets people know that they are not alone. One of the most powerful pieces of the entire album can be found in The Handwritten Letter’s bridge. Overlapping monologues of As It Is fans are played, each person talking about how music has changed their life. It gives the song a personal touch and adds a new level of authenticity to the emotions it conveys.
Existentialism holds strong in The Question The Answer, both in terms of The Poet’s life and his relationship. He asks many questions, finding answers to none. He ponders about death and he wonders about the fate of his relationship with his wife. He even thinks about the two together asking, “Is there anywhere, can she find me there?” These questions lead the listener into curiosity as well as set up the latter half of the album.
“I’m staring death in his eyes” sings Patty Walters in one of the most aggressive and direct songs of the album. The Poet is first introduced to Death in The Reaper, finally seeing the thing that he had been so complacent about before. After spending so much time creating art that romanticized Death, The Poet now sees Death before him. In a more literal context, it can be interpreted that The Poet’s life flashed before his eyes, causing him to reconsider his notions about dying. Now, he has fear, begging Death to let him “keep [his] wasted life.” Featured on the track is Aaron Gillespie, who brings an extra dimension to the song and adds to its impact. Halfway through the record, Death has officially appeared and is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Both The Poet’s Wife and Death come together in The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation). Each character is talking to The Poet about why they want him. The Poet’s wife will be waiting at home, “her voice like a sunrise.” Meanwhile, Death is calling his name and “screaming salvation.” Picture the typical angel and devil on The Poet’s shoulders. Except this time, they are much larger and calling for an answer in a life or death situation.
The Truth I’ll Never Tell fully encompasses why mental health continues to be something that society ineffectively talks about. The Poet stops himself from telling his wife what he’s going through because he does not want to be a burden. Many people who are similarly struggling choose not to express their feelings out of worry of being an inconvenience. This is not just a worry built out of nowhere though. The Poet also talks about the reactions he receives when he does share his story. He questions if anybody would even care about his challenges, and he discusses how people tend to leave him when he talks about what he’s going through. It gives insight into why many hold back on discussing their mental health, even though we are constantly told that the best thing to do is talk about it.
There have been some ups and downs in the ease of lyrical interpretation throughout The Great Depression, but The Haunting is rightfully clear cut in discussing the consequences of suicide. Death is close to luring The Poet into taking his life. However, As It Is acknowledge the aftermath of suicide asking, “Can you feel your sister staring at your grave? Would you take it back if you could see her face?” This line is beautiful and desperate, with Ben Langford Biss’ vocals showing waves of emotion. As the album gets another step closer to its end, The Haunting executes an important message perfectly.
Beginning as something quiet and sentimental then later amounting to something big and powerful, The Hurt, The Hope takes listeners on an emotional rollercoaster. The song begins by talking about self-harm through drinking, smoking, and even isolation. So many people harm themselves in ways that they may not even be conscious about, just wanting to “feel relief” and “be at peace.” The idea of hurt covers most of the track, but hope comes in strong at the end. Much like a movie soundtrack, the instruments pick up momentum and a new feeling is introduced, sharing the message that “it’s got to get better.”
A dramatic finale to the album, The End is a powerful song that leaves listeners guessing what happens to The Poet. The band has stated that they intentionally left The Poet’s story up for interpretation, but nonetheless, there are still major themes that can be picked up by all. The most notable being The Poet’s constant repeating of the phrase “nobody’s listening.” Even when we do talk about our mental health, everyday challenges, and issues we have with the world, nobody is actually listening. Rather, everybody is constantly trying to speak on top of one another. The spoken word section of The End is a heart-wrenching plea from The Poet that truly demonstrates the emotions of not being heard. What happens to The Poet next is up to the listener, but As It Is gave him a strong ending on their part.
As It Is created an impactful record this year – one that is filled with so much meaning and important lessons. After listening to the album, go out into the world with more understanding and empathy. Start listening.
Have you listened to The Great Depression? Tweet us @Fuzzable and let us know your thoughts.