If you know me, you know two words that will get me to listen to a record — concept album. So when post-hardcore outfit Famous Last Words approached me inviting me out to a show in promotion of their new album, I was all there.
The album concept is risky and somewhat political, which makes it all the more intriguing. The Incubus tells the story of fictional Christine, who has experienced abuse and serves as a symbol for anyone who has ever been in her place. The first single, Pretty In Porcelain, stands out not only in its clever and painful lyrics but also blows listeners away with the voice of Jeremy “JT” Tollas. As any good post-hardcore group should master, the album has a good balance of flawless clean vocals and intense screams. I was also impressed by the stripped down acoustic track, How The Mighty Mock the Week, which shows their versatility. But what really stands out are the daring lyrics throughout the album that challenge society’s concept of women who have been stuck in abusive situations, and especially calls out how we often blame the victim instead of addressing the issue at hand. Cleverly, the story is set over fifty years ago, highlighting that this is an issue that hasn’t gone away.
Onto the show — hours before the band was even set to take the stage, the streets outside the venue were lined with people in Famous Last Words tee shirts, eager to show their support. The concert hall of choice is a unique one, a historical brick house on the Ohio River complete with the lore of a widow who hung herself on the top floor. This old-timey setting was perfect for the vibe of The Incubus, as the story told over the album takes place in the 1950s.
When Famous Last Words took the stage, it was obvious that they were the headliner — meaning their raw talent shows. The song that stood out most to me during the performance was The Judged. The audience was captivated in the back and forth nature of the song as a conversation is had between fictional Christine and the court.
That may be the song that hooked me, but it seemed like the crowd was equally hooked to each and every song, and the band thrived off of it. There was no lack of moshing, jumping, singing and screaming as Tollas passionately sang the words and heard them echoed back. A fan base says a lot about a band, and everything from people lining up outside to the energy throughout the show is the best way to know that you’re doing something right.
While their live performance is energetic and their skills obvious, listening to the album is an experience of its own, and their standout qualities are much more vibrant in the studio. Not to say that the band doesn’t give a good live performance — Tollas was excellent about interacting with passionate fans, and the group has mastered their respective instruments. However, I was more captivated by my album listen than I was the show itself. In other words, as I exited the show, I was left wanting more.
All in all, Famous Last Words is admirable for their bravery in conveying important messages in their songs and for their passionate fan base. You can find their latest album, The Incubus, on Spotify and iTunes — it is definitely worth a listen.
Hannah is an accidental internet meme, drummer, loud talker, and proud owner of a purse that functions as a working analog clock. She got the media writer gene from her dad, PF Wilson, another writer for Pop Culture Beast. Her favorite bands come and go on a seasonal rotation, but Marina & The Diamonds and Say Anything are here to say. She’s probably watching The Grand Budapest Hotel right now, but if she isn’t, she’s out photographing rock concerts.