Review: Boys Home – ‘Wishbone’
Until recently, I didn’t give the state of Kansas much thought unless it was March Madness season and the Jayhawks were playing. But over the last year and some change, there’s been a buzz in my ear about this unique and growing music scene from the eastern suburbs of Kansas led by young, college-aged bands such as Four Arm Shiver, From Dust To Beating Hearts and my personal favorite, Boys Home. Probably the most promising aspect of this collection of bands is the inability to nail them to any single sub-genre or culture. They are creating their own niche in music, and could really go in any direction they want with it. This is especially prominent on Boys Home’s debut full-length LP, Wishbone.
A Combination of the raw punchiness of modern pop-punk, 90s emo angst, and the psychedelic textures found on your favorite classic dream pop records, these kids have crafted an album that is both surprisingly cohesive and comfortably midwestern.
The first two tracks, “Lane Meyer” and “Eulogies” set the stage for what turns into quite a sad, bummer of a ride. They are both anthemic, with the drums especially taking center stage as they build and then come crashing down. The standard verse chorus verse format is followed up until track three, “Bryce,” begins. This one sounds like it could have found its place on Boys Home’s 2016 EP, Mary Your Son Has Left Me, a decidedly less structured and more strict pop-punk release. The second promotional single, “Towle Park,” is a Jimmy Eat World inspired slow jam about the stomach-turning feeling of being given up on. The bridge and outro grow into this cathartic repeated scream of “we’re sick and we know it…” which leads right into the next track, a somber song called “Ruth.” The contrast between the pacing of the record to this point contrasts greatly to the next two tracks and it’s jarring as they’re easily the fastest of the entire batch. “Waiting” hit me over the head with it’s nostalgic vibe like a ton of bricks. A couple of my favorite moments on the album come from the song “Past Is Pain.” It considers using the pain of failure as your motivation to be better going forward. There’s this swirling guitar tone that sounds almost like a rocket taking off that reminds me of that one Angels And Airwaves song, “The Adventure.”
Two-thirds of the way through Wishbone lies an instrumental interlude called “Web” that features a crackling of thunder and a slow build of rain. Maybe it symbolizes a cleansing, or maybe it’s just a break from the daunting themes discussed so far because on “Lighthearted Blasphemy,” the band jumps right back into it by sarcastically exposing those in power who don’t practice what they preach, seemingly aimed specifically at those in the church. The excellent title track, “Wishbone,” is a total love letter to bands like Title Fight and Tigers Jaw. Seriously, tell me that opening doesn’t sound like it could’ve been on Floral Green. And those vocal harmonies… don’t get me started. The line “good enough, am I?” has been stuck in my head for weeks. But that’s not even the catchiest song on the album. That title belongs to the lead single, “Pretty Death,” a story about searching for purpose in a life that’s fleeting. The narrator, like most people, just wants to die having made a difference during their time on earth. There’s one last instance where these guys wear their influence on their sleeves, and that’s on “Clockwork,” which is easily their heaviest song with the riff coming straight out of 90s era grunge rock.
If there’s a sour note at all, it’s the somewhat weak outro, “Monique Junot.” It’s not bad by any means, but sometimes when the album ends I’m thrown off a bit as I feel it could have been wrapped up a little tighter. But I can overlook that given the overall expertise on display all over Wishbone. Primary vocalist and guitarist, Christian Nichols has an obvious knack for songwriting, but the thing that really allowed Boys Home to knock this album out of the park is the chemistry among bandmates. Drummer, Lennon Nichols is Christian’s younger brother and current bassist, Logan Herrera is a familiar tour mate often pulling double duty with Four Arm Shiver. With Cody Nichols, Christian and Lennon’s father, at the helm as producer, mixer, and engineer, Wishbone was truly a family affair. All of these guys put in serious work, some of which was documented in a “making of” style mini-doc on their YouTube channel, to make this project one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. Normally as a band releases music, there’s a natural progression and maturation that comes with it, but going from their last EP to this LP, it certainly feels like they skipped a few steps and are poised to take on potentially monstrous opportunities in the near future. On Wishbone, Boys Home experimented with a bigger, spacey sound enhanced by shiny, crystal clear production and powerful tones. In one lyric, they literally asked themselves if they were good enough for this, to which I replied with a resounding… duh, dudes! Wishbone is amazing!
Header photo provided by Boys Home and was taken by Jacob Gill
Wishbone was independently released June 23, 2017
All songs written and performed by Boys Home
All songs recorded at Revealed Studios in Chanute, KS
Produced by Cody Nichols and Boys Home
Engineered and Mixed by Cody Nichols
Mastered by Steve Corrao at Sage Audio – Nashville, TN