(note: I won’t be using a rating system because rating systems are arbitrary. Developing a Theory of Integrity is a must-listen for those who follow any subgenre of punk rock, and is a should-listen for everybody else.)
MakeWar just defined what it means to be in your 20-somethings, figuring out how the hell you’re going to pay off those pesky student debts while planning that last-minute trip into Brooklyn or Albany or Northampton to see that cool, local band you only heard once but dug a lot.
Developing a Theory of Integrity captures that feeling of desperation stuck at the back of your throat – the clawing loneliness and despair that is substituted by your favorite line from a song as you scream in temporary glee alongside a hundred companions; people you don’t know personally, but people you are connected to in that very moment, enjoying the same band, putting the same emphasis on the same words to the same song.
This album is the sound of the Midwestern highway at 3 in the morning, windows down, music off – listening to the rushing of the wind by your head as all your problems pass through your worrying mind and then keep on going through the back of your skull, because it’s 3 am in Ohio and nobody has time for that crap.
The trio of Jose, Edwin and Greg capture so perfectly what it is to be the apathetic college student, or college grad. So confused, and angry when alone, but blissful and content when surrounded by good buds.
Two of the singles they put out before releasing DaToI, “Ode” and “Sallie” are jam-out anthems for the wanderlust bubbling up inside all of us.
“Saving’s for suckers I’ll buy more guitars,” Jose scoffs in “Sallie”, nonplussed by the unopened notices from the electric and credit card companies piling up in his mailbox, “Let’s figure out how to pay most of the bills, while singing songs and drinking beer,”
The band doesn’t seem to have a solution for their problems, outside of alcohol and friendship – but hey, that’s all I’ve ever been able to come up with. That’s all any of us seem to be able to come up with. MakeWar themselves struggle with the balance between acting as a functional adult and just getting in the van and driving the hell away.
“I wanna keep living fast. I wanna die fucking old, and I think I want a dog. I think I’d name him Lucky,” Jose wishes, knowing he’s asking for too much. We all want a dog. We all want to take that next shot of Evan Williams and not feel the repercussion in the morning. We all want to die when we’re 100, comfortable in bed.
Jose knows that Lucky is going to have to wait until those bills from the electric company and Sallie Mae stop coming – until the landlord stops bugging you because rent is a week late. Jose knows that he has to be responsible; wear clean clothes, drink only on the weekends, go to work on time, pay the loan sharks on time.
But damn that sucks, doesn’t it? “Get in the vaaaaaaaaaan!”
This album is the sound of the thoughts in your head as you lie awake early in the morning, thinking and re-thinking every pivotal decision of your life, and figuring out that you think you did everything ass-backwards.
Developing a Theory of Integrity is a much happier album than MakeWar’s self-titled, soft-reboot of their old band, Sad and French. That album was one of love lost and a life in limbo because of it, drowning sorrows in Jameson and banging one’s way to apathetic bliss. DaToI is an album that addresses the previous pains experienced by MakeWar.
Tiger Lili is a beautiful song. There aren’t enough pop-punk/punk-rock songs about a happy relationship focused on listening, understanding, and burgers (“…and you embraced it/WITH BURGERS!” is an amazingly simple, but powerful, lyric – one which caught me off guard at first, but has really grown on me).
“When I’m with you,” Jose declares, reveling the scarce happiness, “it feels like fireflies are lighting up the scary, dark sky,”
Yet Developing a Theory of Integrity isn’t optimistic. It’s an album of moving on, trying harder, getting better…and never quite sure if you’re doing it right, if you’re actually improving. It’s an album of love and adventure marred by the anxiety swimming in our skulls second-after-second.
This is an album made up of the heart-wrenching, soul-baring conversations we have with friends and loves in the dark, sitting outside as the snow glides down onto your scalp and shirt, mingling with the tears – the half-faked laughter mingling with the abyssal night sky.
Every song on this album is a banger. An anthem, a singalong rock song that will calm the queasiness in your stomach while sending the anxiety in your brain racing along, wondering if MakeWar’s solutions will really help you or only make you feel shittier in the end.
And this is an album that says that we don’t know what the solution is yet. The cure might not exist, and all we have air band-aids. But maybe looking for a long term solution only stops us from enjoying the time that we have now to party with our friends and shout along to our favorite songs.
So long as we have songs like “Don’t Panic”, “On Feelings”, and “Ode” to jam out to, maybe we’ll forget we have these problems for just one more night – one more show.