The Falling, Cardinal EP

The reason critics bandy the term “emo” about as a pejorative and the reason the bands associated with the word get such a bad rap is that — like the the diminuitive label they get — the music (and especially the lyrics) has wussified the grand tradition of romanticism in rock ‘n’ roll. In the past year or so we’ve seen an upsurge in intense bands reclaiming the romantic tradition of rock. Murfreesboro’s The Falling is among these. Their new EP for No Karma, Cardinal, flails itself against dreary rock constraints and comes up shining.

Tired of verse-chorus-verse, The Falling push their songs into linear arrangements that aren’t that expected. “The Grand March” begins with a huge drum and bass head-bobbing riff. Singer/guitarist Tyler McDaniel yells his lyrics into the crashing sound. Soon snaking guitar lines lead the other instruments into a hard-driving straight-ahead rock pile-on and back again to the serpentine up-and-down. Just as you think you’ve got it, it ends. Throughout the 5 songs, McDaniel’s vocal delivery is full-throated but back somewhat in the mix making it sound all the more desperate. The howls of “I turn red” which accompany the coda to “Jane” bring to mind the painful “I love you so much I’m miserable” romanticism of the Cure, New Order, and the Psychedelic Furs, albeit ballsier.

In “Toward the Night,” the EP’s 7-minute closer, McDaniel relates a story of regret and loss that might be a touch cringing if it weren’t so dead-on. The endless crisp guitar arpeggio and the plodding drums build around the spoken word narrative to a musically satisfying but emotionally interrupted ending. I think it’s safe to say there isn’t another band like the Falling around these parts. Their sincerity never dips into cheesiness and their music seeks out new forms within its known restrictions.