May 29, 2017

Two Parts Viper, the latest release from ’68, is hard to describe, which is exactly what the duo hoped to achieve. They have never been ones to conform or take the easy way out, and Josh Scogin and Michael McClennan have once again proven that with this album. Two Parts Viper cannot be pigeonholed to a genre or a theme because it varies so many different times throughout. Covering many different topics along the way, it’s supposed to resemble a journey more than anything else. More than once, I found myself checking to see if the record had moved on to a new song, only to find that the one I was listening to actually changed in rhythm and lyrical styling halfway through. This may not come as a surprise to diehard ’68 fans, but it will still keep them captivated while also enticing other curious listeners.

Two Parts Viper opens with “Eventually We All Win.” It’s the shortest on the album by far, clocking in at just two minutes. The track bounces back and forth between Scogin’s voice accompanied by a light bell ringing, almost sounding like a metronome, before breaking into a more classic ’68 vibe full of distortion and screaming guitar riffs. Moving between these two opposites in the album’s introduction puts forth the feeling that you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. Evidently, every track will have a surprise waiting for you.

“Whether Terrified or Unafraid” has a more familiar feeling to past releases by the band, if that’s even possible, since the band has always been about hard, fast music that is almost too hard to follow sometimes. The song speaks about being unapologetically yourself, especially when Scogin sings, “I could have been anyone from anywhere but I chose to be me from right here.” It’s exactly what the title says, encouraging listeners to be themselves, whether you’re completely comfortable in your own skin or you’re just gaining the courage to be who you are. Just be true to yourself and who you are meant to become.

The album’s first single, “This Life is Old, New, Borrowed and Blue,” is a good song. Don’t get me wrong–it’s one that is enjoyable and one I will probably play often… But it almost feels too safe. While it’s one that will appease fans, it doesn’t show the band’s growth the way others on Two Parts Viper do. With an album that is full of so many captivating songs that push barriers, this one doesn’t quite add up like the rest.

One of the best tracks, by far, is “No Apologies.” In the middle of the song, it is broken up by Scogin speaking different lines, with my favorite part being, “Are you my killer or are you my lover? Please make yourself known / Our shadows are only getting longer and it seems to me you’re all alone / And I know you got a job to do / And well that’s okay / It almost makes sense what you’re trying to say.” Spoken word has been incorporated into a lot of music recently, something I am very much for, but this is different from any other spoken word that has been integrated by other artists. It doesn’t include music alongside the words, and instead leaves his voice and the message to stand alone so that everyone can get a full understanding of the message he wants to convey.

Another standout track is the closer, “What More Can I Say,” which initially takes a softer approach and gradually gets rougher towards the end. The highlight of this track is the underlying part of it that fades in and out, and, to me, it resembles a heartbeat. It’s something I have never heard before, but it’s one of the coolest things I have ever heard a band do. It gradually becomes more and more erratic, just like the vocals, and this tone matches the lyrics of the song. Culminating with the line, “We can wage war against the world of hate / or at least in my dreams we still can,” before breaking down into an instrumental part that sounds like the beginning of a march, the main focus turns to McClellan’s drumming. With the current state of the world right now, this song will make everyone want to stand up and fight for what they believe in, and they will have Scogin’s voice singing, “We can love each other,” in their heads the whole time.

Two Parts Viper is exactly what ‘68 wanted: a journey. The whole album was created in such a way that every song has a nostalgic feel to it. It’s not overly produced the way a lot of music is today. Instead, it focuses on great musicianship and songwriting in order to stand out and compete with not just their past releases but with other artists as well. Just when you start getting comfortable in what you think Scogin and McClellan are trying to do, they let you know that it’s never that easy. Overall, the record is full of twists and turns and will keep listeners on their toes throughout.


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