Talon of the Hawk: Ripping Your Heart Out for 42 Minutes


Corinna Caimi

Label: Bar/None.

Producers: Chris “Frenchie” Smith, Sean Rolie.

Release date: May 21, 2013.

Rating: 5/5

By Corinna Caimi

Talon of the Hawk by The Front Bottoms is forty-two perfect scream-singing, try-to-stop-crying, punch in the gut, rip your heart out Indie-Rock minutes.

Until the release of Talon of the Hawk, The Front Bottoms were known for minimalistic lyrics, a folky sound, and their love us or hate us attitude. This album is the band’s first with Bar/None, moving to more complicated writing and a more alternative-indie-rock vibe. It was an excellent move.

That’s not to say they are any less divisive. If you already hated front-man Brian Sella’s lack of actual singing, the acoustic guitar strumming away, and their self-proclaimed immature lyrics, you still won’t like Talon of the Hawk. However, if you were looking for something to make you feel like you’re hanging out in a friend of a friend’s basement listening to someone’s band play… this is the one for you.

The album kicks off with a tambourine and Sella diving into the over-arching theme of the entire album: how do you become the perfect couple with someone who isn’t your soulmate? Who knows? But it is immediately understood that the band will spend the rest of the album trying to explain it to us. There is a constant disconnect between the upbeat instrumentals and humorous lyrics and the song’s actual meaning. If we’re looking deeper into it, you can say it has something to do with the disconnect between being the perfect couple and not being in love. But, if we’re looking at its face value, that is very on-brand with the Front Bottoms’ entire sound.

The opening song, “Au Revior (Adios),” hits like a ton of bricks for a piece that’s under two minutes and really only has two lyrics. Nevertheless, there is something immediately heartbreaking about telling someone you’ll see them later and them responding with goodbye.

The album then immediately transitions into the growing hurt that is “Skeleton.” Sella spends the chorus of this song explaining how he got so high he fell asleep in the front seat of his car, which is ridiculous because he’s so tall. However, on a second listen, it hit me that he couldn’t cope with his sadness over the situation and had to get high enough to pass out in an odd spot to deal with his emotions.

“Swear to God the Devil Made Me Do It” feels like a filler, even though it probably could have been a great stand-alone song. It’s cool, and it has enjoyable sound effects. Unfortunately, it gets lost if you’re listening to the entire album as it is completely overshadowed by one of the best songs they have ever written, “Twin Size Mattress.”

The song is better listened to than described, so I’m including a link to it here. There is a reason this is still their concert closer seven years after the album’s release. “Twin Size Mattress” talks directly to one friend who has been struggling. Although the main character wants to help her, he knows that she may be too far gone, and he needs to help himself. The song is helplessly relatable and the perfect combination of simple lyrics and deep meaning. It is gut-wrenchingly sad and still somehow manages to make you feel like you have some sort of meaning by the end.

And “Peach” puts you in tears for a whole different reason. It feels like a love song at first, only to realize it’s only a love song if you’ve ever felt like a second-choice and a screw-up to the person you love. He wants to love her, but he doesn’t think he is good enough to, carrying on our overarching story. However, to no fault of the band, “Peach” was just more enjoyable before it was covered to death by every person with an acoustic guitar and a YouTube channel.

“Santa Monica” and “The Feud” both serve their respective purposes and don’t do much more. I would never skip either of these songs, but I don’t know that I’m going out of my way to put them on either. As The Front Bottoms experiment with their sound, they end up sounding a little too 21 Pilots on “Santa Monica” and a little too Blink-182 on the “The Feud.”

“Funny You Should Ask” is really a lot to handle emotionally, and you can hear that it is for our artists as well. Growing up is complicated, and wasn’t it easier when you didn’t have to care about anything? Wasn’t it easier before you didn’t just feel like you were going through the seasons with someone? So scream this one on a late-night, windows down with your friends. It’s free therapy!

“Tattooed Tears” is wordy in the way only Brian Sella could make it sadder than a lot of their other songs. The guitar is quieter, and so is Sella. This one is genuinely a struggle to get through as a listener, especially if you ever felt yourself falling out of love. It feels like a song coping with the message that maybe there is no way to be a perfect couple if you’re not soulmates. Or maybe soulmates aren’t real. Or maybe this is just the way it’s supposed to be. Or maybe it’s you. Do you see why this one will make you cry?

“Lone Star” is a weird one. While most of The Front Bottoms’ songs are super relatable, this one feels a little out of place, considering it is an entire song about his girlfriend having an abortion and the implications that came with it. I like it instrumentally and musically, it just doesn’t hit the same way a lot of their other music does.

“Backflip” and “Everything I Own” round at the album and hit just as hard as you want them to. “Backflip” closes the story arch, and our main characters don’t end up together. “Everything I Own” wraps up all of the feelings about the things they have been through, together and alone. They are lyrically and instrumentally vital pieces that sound like the new era of The Front Bottoms in the best way possible.

I wouldn’t suggest listening to this album if you’re trying to feel intense happiness. But if you’re in for forty-two minutes of scream-singing, crying, gut-punch lyrics set to an acoustic guitar and tambourine, I highly suggest putting on Talon of the Hawk. Rating: A