I love Music Monday. It gives me an excuse to tell you about something I have a strange affection for. I never thought of myself as a big “Screamo” fan. I don’t need people yelling at me. But I find myself coming back to this album time and time again because there’s just something about the passion with which it’s sang.
Senses Fail is by no means a “new” name out there, and this album is more than half-a-decade old at this point. When Still Searching was released it was already their third full length album and I had no interest in hearing it. But when a friend told me to give it a listen, I found a few songs I really liked. I listened to it again this week and realized: I have memorized almost every single song on the album. How did that happen?
I have the 2006 original release but there is also a 2007 Deluxe Edition that I haven’t heard, but it gives you a whopping SIX extra tracks. But when listening to the 2006 version, I immediately remember long car rides, tapping the steering wheel to these songs.
Songs about sadness, depression, and people not understanding you. Nothing new here, nothing that wasn’t in prior emo music or even grunge from the 90’s. What sets Senses Fail apart, I feel, is the genuine talent in the band. Vocals are showcased in the title Track, Still Searching, where we switch between guttural growls and beatiful harmonies on the fly. Instrumentals are highlighted when you listen to the metalicious guitar solo in Sick or Sane. And the lyrics are the writing of someone who, I think, is being honest with their listeners. “I’m not the same kid I was when I was younger, I just thought you should know…” and “I hope my mother and my father think / that they raised a healthy boy / — who needs the help of a shrink / to even leave the house” are lyrics from the title track.
Interviews with people who have been diagnosed with genuine depression seem to echo these exact thoughts. The person with depression is deeply concerned with other’s impressions if they were to find out about this medical condition. It’s something doctors explain away as perfectly natural and clinically common, but the person battling depression is still stuck fighting a stigma. I’ve heard it and read it in research papers time and time again, which makes me think that these thoughts weighed heavily on the minds of the band members as they put this album together.
There seem to be lots of personal glimpses throughout the album, and it’s always interesting to see topics like depression handled with care. An interesting departure on the album is the last track (on the 2006 version), called The Priest and the Matador. It’s a very slow song told from the perspective of a man who, evidently, had some sort of brain anurism and is about to die on the street, surrounded by strangers. “Here I lie / I’m staring at / clouds in shapes of / dogs and cats. / I hear a woman / start to yell / oh dear God, I / think he fell.” As the song reveals itself, the protagonist wishes he could get the religious figures around him to leave him alone – but what I find fascinating is that they include in the song how he won’t give up on our subject. The priest who rushes to his side, the stranger who wants to pray with him, and the unwillingness to cooperate. His certainty that religion isn’t going to save him – his conviction that he is beyond saving seems to contradict the album title, Still Searching. It seems clear that something bigger is wanted out of life, but the fear that religion might not be the thing to fill that gap is ever present. A battle many people in our society have.
But I’m not here to discuss religion with you. You can do that on your own, and while you discuss – give this 2006 “new classic” a listen, and see if you have a religious experience of your own.