The career trajectory of Hartford, Connecticut’s post-hardcore outfit Make Do and Mend is a strange one. It’s true, the band spent most of 2010 garnering a cult status amongst punk rockers with their beloved debut, End Measured Mile – an album I’ve admittedly never been too fond of. But when 2012 rolled along and I caught the band’s glowing set at Warped Tour, I decided to pick up their new album, Everything You Ever Loved. EYEL showed off a very different side of the band, basking in warm alt-rock numbers closer to Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World than anything the hardcore community had heard in some time.
That album was a grower in the best possible way, and nearly three years later, it still holds up. And perhaps that’s what makes the band’s new single, title track “Don’t Be Long,” so disappointing. “Don’t Be Long” finds the band falling into old habits; vocalist James Carroll sounds either out of tune or out of place for nearly the entire song, especially when letting out the rough growl that ignites each chorus. It’s hard to deny that the intensity is there, but literally everything about the song – from its mixing to its odd lack of melody – feels off.
While the song leaves us unsatisfied after nearly three years of silence from the band, “Don’t Be Long” still feels stronger than almost anything currently coming out of Rise Records. There is a dissonant feedback throughout the chorus, either created by distorted guitars or keys, that sets a darkened, fuzzy mood for the song that one desperately hopes will frame the album as well EYEL’s guitar tones did. The lyrics aren’t bad, albeit being typical Make Do and Mend fare, as Carroll belts, “Maybe we lost our place/And all I need to say is/Come and find me/ Like an old crease in the page.”
All things said, I’ll still gladly listen to Don’t Be Long upon its release, because I have faith. When a band gives us a release as emotionally resonant as Everything You Ever Loved, we own them that at the very least. I only hope that this album doesn’t go the way of Rise-lablemates Transit, who remain a shell of the band they were after releasing 2011’s pop-punk bombshell, Listen & Forgive. “Don’t Be Long” seems at best a poor single choice, and at worst a worrisome indication of whether or not Make Do and Mend’s third LP can stack up to the success they’ve earned themselves already.