Before listening to Longfriend Timefriend’s debut album, I anxiously prepped myself for what was to come. If Me Dies, Me Dies. The title clearly implied that the album was either a spoken-word pirate poetry art-piece or a series of vignettes yelled out by a band of angry stereotyped Irishmen. I had little experience writing about either.
I did some research to assuage my nervousness. Their Bandcamp’s description simply stated, “we’re a band”. Of course, it would be just like a posse of artful pirate poets to be discreet. My fears were further confirmed when I discovered that the pirates of Longfriend Timefriend were masquerading as a four-piece pop punk band from South Philadelphia. Their cover went deep.
Whatever their origins, Longfriend Timefriend doesn’t believe in being defined by one role. Their previously released singles fluctuate between melancholy 90s-tinged alternative like “Chemical Change” and the enthusiastic punk cover that achieved them recognition around Philadelphia – their version of the 76ers theme song, “Here Come the 76ers”. The band takes turn singing with everyone contributing vocals. They are four separate feet slammed on the gas of a pop punk vehicle and it’s time to cover If Me Dies, Me Dies, which releases across the universe on February 26th.
I want to feel the music as it hits me, like a (hopefully) gentle 18-wheeler punk bus. So, this is a real-time reaction review of If Me Dies, Me Dies by Longfriend Timefriend. Sound good?
The album is 12 tracks in 29 minutes, so it’s basically the most punk-sized timeline ever. Little music nuggets, like those bite-sized Snickers. Caleb Delp sings the first track, and his vocals are stark compared to his counterpart on guitar, Mike McMahon. Mike’s timbre is strikingly close to Craig Finn of The Hold Steady. Caleb’s delivery is stream-of-conscious with an emo affectation and a higher range.
Goodness, this sounds like Blink 182 in 1993. With like, just the slightest whisper of Counting Crows in the intro. Just a splash. They’ve blended this layer of ‘90s alternative vibes with a traditional punk tempo and chord structure. At this point, I’m realizing that this is not spoken-word pirate poetry.
The energy isn’t like pummeling the instruments until all their guitar strings break, and the drumheads burst. It’s driving without being furious, and it flows. Baggage surges for two minutes and rides right into the next one.
If you heard only this song, you’d say, “Yeah, it’s pop punk”. It’s the only descriptor for “Trying”. Feisty. Fast. Makes you shuffle your feet (even though it’s hard to mosh from my computer desk).
If Me Dies, Me Dies
These are the words I speak every time I put a family-sized Digiorno’s pizza in the oven for myself. The title track reminds me of The Gaslight Anthem. Urgent bursts of emotional vocals. You’re never quite sure if you want to call it pop punk or alt-rock. Or indie alt-pop punk rock. I don’t know what instrument makes the catchy notes of fuzz for the last ten seconds, but I want more of it.
Pop energy with harmonized background vocals, and one of four songs on which Caleb Delp sings lead vocals. You would never ever listen to this in a downpour – it’s pure sunlight.
The drumbeat is the most noticeable part of “Fall Again”. Very crisp. Yeah, Rhythm needs recognition, too! Pete Imbesi is on drums and Louie Fantini on bass.
A Good Time
Seven seconds in, this is already my favorite song. I love anything that makes me want to run after a bus that’s departing with my girlfriend for the airport, as I flail my arms and dash through traffic to stop her. She’s leaving forever for a job as an assistant book editor in Toronto, and it’s the “I realized I love her too late” moment. We’ll call it a dramatically urgent inspiration (DUI).
A lot of the momentum on the album comes from the emphasis in the vocals. I’ve used the word “urgent” a bunch of times. Let me be more creative. They punctuate. When they sing, it feels like someone is punching a hole in the drywall.
Pardoned, Forgot About
Punk is historically just a teensy bit political, right? “Nothing will happen to the president/Like nothing happens to the cops”. This declarative string of lyrics scores one album genre point for Punk. Pop, do you have anything to say about this?
Fix Your Shit
This is the fastest, most traditionally punk song on the album. Shouted lyrics, a driving tempo, and none of the time shifts or harmonies experimented with on earlier songs. Just straight punk.
I heard this song released in the fall of 2020 and it makes sense that it’s the last track. It’s a denouement. A set’s worth of dance energy and the band is catching their breath, heaving until it steadies, and reflecting. Yeah, it picks up in the chorus. But the rest of the album was constantly flowing around rocks and hurtling forward, cutting its path. “Chemical Change” leaves something linger, as the band fades out and McMahon ends with, “It’ll never be the same”.
That’s it. If Me Dies, Me Dies by Longfriend Timefriend. My brain is trying to categorize the album into organizational chunks of genre. It’s not working. Maybe what I said in the intro held more weight than I anticipated. They’re not strictly defined by genre or tone or lyrical themes.
If Me Dies, Me Dies is an expression of a band pushing their own boundaries with each song. A pop hook in one place, a screeched burst of punk angst in another. It’s held together by the strands of “pop punk” and “alternative” that I’ve tied around it, but the albumis all over the place, like we are. If Me Dies, Me Dies is what it looks like to be human: exploring what feels right and what doesn’t, but always pushing to grow.