The term ‘Supergroup’ more often than not is associated with one time projects that might seem interesting at the time but ultimately do not live up to the expectations or sounds of the band members main musical projects. This is not the case with Fiddlehead. After beloved emo group Title Fight announced their indefinite hiatus in 2017, hardcore fans were craving more bands that channelled Fugazi, Jawbreaker and Lifetime just as they did.
Formed by members of Have Heart, Basement, Youth Funeral and Big Contest, Fiddlehead’s first record Springtime and Blind, which came out in 2018, filled that niche incredibly well. I was lucky enough to catch them at the New Cross Inn on their December UK tour where they were welcomed with open arms and a fuck load of stage-dives along the way.
For vocalist Pat Flynn, grief has no expiry date, no time limit and absolutely no one’s place to tell someone to “Get over it”. Alluding to the passing of Flynn’s father, we have a life affirming intro to Fiddlehead’s second full length record on “Grief Motief”, a quote from poet E.E Cummings; “I carry your heart with me, I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere I go, you go.” Following this, the Boston quintet launches into hard hitting instrumentation, Flynn giving us the long term symptoms grief we all must face when faced with a sudden loss of life; “Wake up and fall apart, sleep in and fall apart.”
At face value, the songs follow a similar structure from last time, albeit with slower tempos in some areas, and Flynn occasionally unleashing his shouted vocals, not heard since members of Have Heart released a one off EP under the name ‘Free’ in 2015. The guitars still have that signature melancholic rock tone that feels familiar but just as impactful at the same time. Guitarist Alex Henery has a bigger role in terms of backing vocals, especially on “Get My Mind Right” and “Million Times”. Much like in Basement, his vocal contributions serve mostly to intensify the chorus rather than a dual singer-songwriter dynamic. They work incredibly well and help solidify the catchiness of each sticky vocal hook into aggressive chants when the group inevitably start playing live shows again.
As an academic himself, “Down University” is a recognition of the pressures in education to succeed painting an all too familiar picture in your head with the line; “Rising pressure and stress to measure up to standards set so high in your mind”. On the upside, Flynn urges the listener that all the prestigious American colleges listed are merely names, with the following mantra “You are worth more than your degree”. It’s a relatable tune that will undoubtedly bring comfort to those like myself who have struggled or are struggling to succeed and make their families proud. Shawn Costa’s drum fills are a notable highlight on this track, giving you the energy to jump off the nearest thing in your room and pretending that shows are still happening as normal.
“Stay in the Blue” and closer “Heart to Heart” show Flynn directly addressing his son Richard, who shares the same name as his late father. It is an optimistic side to the songwriting that feels warm and hopeful as well as deeply relatable. These songs are not only meant to be a time capsule of sorts but could also be passed on to anyone who’s recently brought a child into the world. These cuts also resonate the most emotionally, with gritty melodies and ear-worm worthy charm.
Ultimately, the world needed more Fiddlehead after Springtime and Blind, and we got more than we asked for, helping all of us to regain balance and catharsis in these uncertain times. I have no doubt in my mind that with time this will go down as one of the finest emo/post hardcore records of the 2020’s thus far.