POZ Decade: Finch - What It Is To Burn

by Zack Zarrillo - Feb 12, 2013


2013 is going to be an incredible year to reflect back on the music we love and the memories attached to songs we still know better than any others. We’ve created a new PropertyOfZack feature called Decade to celebrate those albums that we love and the albums that have inspired a new wave of music in their path. Decade will be a frequent feature on the site taking place around the ten year anniversaries of albums or their tours.

We’re kicking off Decade which Finch, who recently began their What It Is To Burn anniversary tour. We have commentary on the album via team members Jesse Richman and Adrienne Fisher, Under The Gun friend of the site Dan Bogosian, Joe Cubera of American Dream Records, and Buddy Nielsen from Senses Fail that has all been compiled by Managing Editor Josh Hammond. Enjoy and reblog to let us know your thoughts on What It Is To Burn over ten years later!

Legacy of What It Is To Burn:

What It Is To Burn was the album that broke post-hardcore into a mainstream entity, as far as I’m concerned. Thrice and Thursday became bigger bands, Glassjaw ranked higher on the charts for a bit, but Finch hit number one on the Heatseekers chart and 99 on the Billboard 200 in an era where the top 200 had no idea where to go after ‘N Sync broke up (and no, that isn’t a joke). Finch came out of nowhere and identified themselves as a mainstream link to an obscure scene, combining the east coast hardcore sound with the San Diego alternative scene, bridging the likes of Drive Like Jehu and connecting them to the “emo” people still cling to today. A decade later, we can look back and say that maybe the album isn’t everyone’s favorite, but the imprint and the impact were there and stood the test of time. What It Is To Burn changed two guitar music in the 2000s, and – perhaps against the band’s own wishes – made “screamo” a thing. Love it or hate it, the album changed the shape of what was to come, and still provides songs to sing along to. I’ve seen every reunion show so far, and every audience member knows every word. If that isn’t a profound legacy, what is? - Dan Bogosian (@dlbogosian)

I would say that What It Is To Burn was one of those records that influenced a generation of kids to play a certain style of music. The mix of the catchy singing and heavy parts 100% spurred Senses Fail to explore that world of sound. - Buddy Nielsen (@SensesFail)

How the album changed Finch’s future:

The record being such a success for the band might have actually hurt their future. I feel like the band resented the fact that they had that much success, on a record they didn’t feel represented where they wanted to be musically. It is pretty obvious that on their follow up they wanted nothing to do with their old sound. - Buddy Nielsen (@SensesFail)

How What It Is To Burn holds up in 2013:

What It Is To Burn is not an album has has aged particularly gracefully.  Ten years after its release, the record doesn’t get played for much of any reason other than that of nostalgia.  Having to sit through the entirety of the album is more of a chore than a pleasant experience, and tracks like “Grey Matter” and “Project Mayhem” are noisy, painful reminders of the screamo heyday.  A few bright spots remain, however, as the title track, “Post Script,” and “Ender” are decent songs, and can still be enjoyed in moderation.  As with a lot of music from this era, WIITB is not the most mature album, musically or lyrically. As tastes have been refined and as angst has subsided over the past ten years, much of the appeal which made this album popular has been lost to the ages. – Joe Cubera (@anamericangod) 

I think the album still holds up very well. I think well written songs will always stand the test of time and this record is filled with those. - Buddy Nielsen (@SensesFail)

Finch’s follow up to What It Is To Burn:

I think that the battles between what the label wanted and what the band wanted played a large part in the delay of the follow up. They were on MCA, as per Drive Thru’s deal, but MCA folded into Universal and the band ended up on a rudderless label in Geffen. By my personal accounts on dealing with Geffen, it was an awful place for a band like ourselves, Finch, Starting Line, and NFG to be. We luckily were able to leave and NFG powered through but I really feel like Starting Line and Finch paid the price. I truly think things would have been different had Finch been allowed to stay on DTR or chart their own course.  - Buddy Nielsen (@SensesFail) 

The years following What it Is To Burn were turbulent. Finch weathered label changes, lineup changes — the departure of drummer Alex Pappas — and a creative restlessness that found the band writing (and junking, and rewriting) for what seemed like years. The end result was Say Hello To Sunshine, an album that critics — and pretty much nobody else, it seemed — loved. Say Hello To Sunshine traded What It Is To Burn’s pop-emo for an amped-up post-hardcore attack that fucked with metal (dig the chuggy breakdown in “A Piece Of Mind”) and mathy post-punk (try and follow the inside-out guitar intro to “Ink”). Over the top of it all, vocalist Nate Barcalow indulged his inner Mike Patton fantasies, splicing lunatic rants and death howls into his otherwise Brandon Boyd-ish croon. It all culminated in “Dreams Of Psilocybin”, a bad-trip nightmare which veered between incoherent, psychotic huff-and-puff vocalizations and double-tracked paranoid rambling, with a huge melodic hook wedged in the middle for good measure.

Listening today, Say Hello To Sunshine holds up really well; it’s not a stretch to call it the band’s masterpiece, and a lost classic of the mid-00’s emo bubble. It’s also, in retrospect, not quite as fuck-all experimental as it was made out to be in 2005. But at the time, it was a confusing, challenging left turn that, regardless of how damn good it was, felt like an affront to the band’s fanbase, a rejection of the ascendant third wave emo scene that What It Is To Burn had helped launch. Add an unforgiving fanbase to the band’s already-tense interpersonal drama, and Finch would never recover. The rest of the band’s history is a shit-pile — member changes, a break-up or two, aborted comebacks, slapdash EPs, and innumerable updates promising new music, most of which would never materialize.

In late 2012, Finch reconvened once more, announcing a series of What It Is To Burn ten year anniversary shows. Where they go from here, nobody knows — and that probably includes the band members themselves.  - Jesse Richman (@jrichmanesq)

Most memorable song on What It Is To Burn:

While it’s by no means the song that Finch is most remembered for, to me “Ender” boasts some of the most memorable and altogether unique qualities presented on What It Is To Burn. The song is largely absent of the pop-punk appeal of its neighbors, and instead brings the sad with Nate Baralow’s vocals quiet and distant, drawing out a beautiful spiraling melody over a toned down guitar and barely-there electronic percussion. It’s hard to believe that Finch got away with using such electronic percussion as much as they did, especially in a song nearly akin to a power ballad. However, it doesn’t find itself to be intrusive or overly cheesy, and allows the lyrics to do most of the work in the front half of the song. “Here I am beside myself again / I’m torn apart by words that you have said” may lack the biting viciousness of some of the other lyrics on the record, but it is still a textbook example of classic 2003 “emo” lyrics – custom-written for your AIM profile on a rainy night. Such melodrama tends to resonate with teenagers, and for that, this song was markedly gripping to listen to in its heyday if you happened to be Drive-Thru’s target audience. 

But sonically, “Ender” really takes a turn for the epic when the rest of the band joins halfway through and the dynamic takes a 90-degree turn upward. The tempo stays the same and lets you stay sad if you wish; the intensity, however, soars skyward with the volume and clarity of the now-bellowed vocals that call out a moment of solidarity: “grasp our hands together / we feel we are one result.” If you ignore the 8-minute outro with all the weirdo horror-movie sound effects, this is a song that prides itself on fading in and staying put, and the juxtaposition between where it started and where it winds up is really what gives it it’s memorable status. Many of the other songs on the record focus on pushing one agenda – a pop-punk song here, an aggressive almost-post-hardcore tune there. But the dramatic escalation and simple mission statement of “Ender” is what infuses it with staying power to be remembered fondly in a feature write-up ten years after its release: “Here we are to sing you a song.” - Adrienne Fisher (@adriennerayfish)

Perspective from another band present during Finch’s rise to success: 

Our first official tour was with Finch. We were lucky to be on the second half of a run they did with the Used. It was truly world shattering to step foot on such a successful tour out first time out. Every show was sold out and there was this excitement and energy around the band. they were truly in the middle of blowing up. This was right before they received significant air play on radio and MTV. There are very few other tours that have the vibe this one did, as there are really only a couple bands that ever achieve that amount of success. It was very exciting to be around something that was gaining that kind of momentum as it rarely happens.  - Buddy Nielsen (@SensesFail)

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  10. dagarabedian reblogged this from propertyofzack and added:
    WHAT IT IS TO BURN. It also says what I’ve been saying for YEARS, which is that SAY HELLO TO SUNSHINE is a masterpiece,...
  11. 4twentyonepilots reblogged this from propertyofzack
  12. jomaama reblogged this from propertyofzack and added:
    Read More I loved...Burn and when Say Hello To Sunshine came out, I loved that album too.
  13. soogthomas reblogged this from propertyofzack
  14. itsindinotindie reblogged this from propertyofzack and added:
    2013 is going to be an incredible year to reflect back on the music we love and the memories attached to songs we still...
  15. lost-in-the-ech0 reblogged this from shannahxo and added:
    still one of my favourite albums.
  16. sensesfailfuckyou reblogged this from propertyofzack and added:
    2013 is going to be an incredible year to reflect back on the music we love and the memories attached to songs we still...
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  19. anarchysbestfriend reblogged this from propertyofzack and added:
    Read More This album changed my life....me, its perfect in every way. There will never be
  20. dlbogosian reblogged this from propertyofzack
  21. shannahxo reblogged this from propertyofzack and added:
    This is SUCH a good album and I really wish this [Senses Fail & Finch] tour would happen again. I will always love...