I don’t handle it well when favorite bands call it a day. Partly because I’m a geezer and the ranks are dwindling--I’m not adding many favorites. Partly because the bands I follow seem more likely to go on hiatus, take an extended break but still play occasional shows.
In late 2010 I read about the Measure’s break up in Razorcake. I was eating breakfast, about to leave for work. Notes had just come out on No Idea Records. It was their first proper full-length. I was ready to settle in for a series of follow up albums. Despite having over a dozen other Measure records--singles, EPs, compilation cuts--things were starting. Plus, just a few weeks before I’d been able to do a mini-tour with Lauren Denitzio and Fid, the band’s singers and songwriters. It was a great weekend. No hints of distress, much less a pending break up. I was crushed when they pulled the plug.
Relief came in the knowledge that Lauren and Fid would probably unveil new projects soon; they had too much to say to remain on the sidelines. Three years later Lauren is the first one out of the gates with the Worriers. (As far as I know. Fid could have three new records out. I’ve not found a reliable way to stay in touch with him. An elusive dude. Get him started on Guided By Voices sometime.)
Cruel Optimist is an excellent eight-track EP. I could hear the Measure wrestling with this material—barreling through the title track, easing into “Precarity Rules.” The similarity in sounds isn’t surprising given that the rhythm section is comprised of fellow Measure alumni Mike Yannich (drums) and Tim Burke (bass).
Rounding out the quartet is Rachel Rubino on guitar. She’s a terrific foil for Denitzio, especially on the slower, more atmospheric songs like “Precarity Rules” and “Killjoy.” It’s on these songs where the Worriers sound least like the Measure, haunting at times. (A seldom used adjective in DIY punk circles.) Not that I need that to be the case. Like I said, the Measure ended too soon.
Lyrically, Denitzio continues to mine the desire to be ethical and practical, high-minded and progressive, without detaching from the real world. There are line like this: “Don’t know how to push through this/I used to be an optimist” (“Cruel Optimist”), which sound like time and experience are taking their toll. Yet the overall tone is still one of resilience. I don't know how I'll push through this only that I will.
Given the serious tone of the lyrics I feel that a review should respond in kind, but I have to admit that in saying or thinking “The Worriers” I often think of “The Warriors.” Or to be more specific, The Warriors, the 1979 Walter Hill film. But instead of various street gangs roaming the city, I envision a recasting, packs of punk rock subgenres come to life—pop punkers bouncing out of St. Marks comics, gutter punks streaming in on Metro North, anarcho punks charging forth in the name of Emma Goldman. Initially they’re all caught off guard by the return of the ska punks, but in the third act the Worriers unite them all. Maybe this is just how I push through.
Works of fan fiction aside, Cruel Optimist is a terrific record. I'm still not over the end of the Measure, but as the old saying goes post-break up records heal all wounds.