Madalyn Alfonso: Highly Suspect is a band I recently found and fell in love with. Their sound is exactly what I want to jam out to at any given moment, plus the lead singer is super hot. Their song “Lydia” was the first one I heard, and I knew that they were exactly the kind of band I’d love. I listened to all of Mister Asylum immediately, and I was right about how amazing they are. They are on tour right now and they’ll be in Brooklyn in May so you already know I’m going to be out for that. I hope Mahnoor enjoys them!
Mahnoor Ali: When the Great Madalyn bestowed her recommendation on me, I truly did not know what to expect. Upon hearing this album, which was entirely new to me in both artist and genre, I came to see why she has been “obsessed with it lately:” it’s edgy and blunt, but does not lack one bit in pure musical skill. I, however, did not have a taste for it.
Now, I won’t say it was bad — because it wasn’t. The first time I listened I was getting my nails done and had one earbud in, half committed because that’s how I need to listen to all new music, purposelessly. Then, if something makes my ears perk up, I make a mental note to pay extra attention to that when I revisit. Overwhelmingly, much of this 10 track debut rock album by Highly Suspect blurred together for me, as much of rock does for me anyway. I mean, we get it, you feel somewhat angsty, somewhat apathetic about whatever, you write some cryptic rhymes and you do some cool tricks on your strings here and there with the same tired drums in the back, did I get that right? Am I missing something? Sometimes a few lyrics will stick out, but for the most part, nothing really hit home for me.
I will say, however, the first and title track, “Mister Asylum” does sound like it would be the single off the record that gets swept up by popular culture. It’s fast, but fresh. The lyrics are mostly, “I can’t breathe”s, “I’m drowning”’s and “I’m ready to blow”’s. It reminded me a lot of middle school, for whatever reason. I just want to know, though, why can’t this guitarist and vocalist Johnny Stevens breathe? In terms of writing, the song lacked that depth. In fact, much of the time I listened I was wondering, “What was the reason?”
Second up, is “Lost” and…this gave me anxiety. I’m sorry. It wasn’t a bad song either, but it did not make me feel good. Perhaps that’s the art of it, which, if that’s the case, then that’s amazing and I love it. Lyrically, it is rather poetic and speaks on a love going awry, literally losing its way if you will. So, I got that. As relatable of an experience as it is, I wouldn’t want to hear it again.
After a track called “Bath Salts,” we have “Lydia” and this one I like. Stevens’ voice has a lot more character here, straight from the opening notes. The riff is also a bit funky, but anticipatory; it builds the right amount of tension between the listener and the song. Although, yet again, in this chorus he’s singing that he can’t breathe…somebody check on Johnny Stevens, please. As the song builds, his frustrations do as well and might I say it’s a very well executed progression. As he starts to wail, “I can’t f*cking breathe, much less believe the truth/I pick up a mag, aim for his head, and shoot/Better days, so unafraid in my youth/I can’t breathe or believe the truth” the music picks up and you really start to feel his energy. It even had me bopping along. I still don’t know what “truth” he’s talking about or why it’s causing him such respiratory distress, though.
Then, we have “23” with a feature from Sasha Dobson, another person I don’t know of, and, well, it’s okay. It’s just another repetitive song on the album that sounds like the rest, with a bit more emphasis on drums, maybe. Maybe.
“Mom” was the song that peaked my interest as I was curious to hear just how honest this rock band full of white men are about their mommy issues. Lo and behold, it’s very honest. It’s also very simple, which I admire. The guitar riff is really great and fun on this one, but again, an untrained ear would not hear that much of a difference between this and the other nine songs. Lyrically, it commits the cliché of starting each of the verses with, “Hey, mama” so, do what you will with that.
Skipping another mediocre track called “Bloodfeather” (whatever that means), there’s “F**k Me Up” which, by the way, can f*ck me up. This one actually tells a story as the lyrics are fun, narrative and revealing. With the perfect mix of apathy and flirtatiousness, Stevens belts, “I need another reason to feel dead inside/Don’t ask me for my name, it’s not a part of the plan.”
Mister Asylum then ends with two more songs, “Vanity” and “Claudeland,” full of basic and directionless lyrics. In conclusion, I deem the songwriting mediocre. It’s just so basic it’s not even edgy anymore. Bare minimum in rhetoric, truly. However, yes, there were a few songs I did jive with, but I was not moved deeply in any way. The skill in musicianship is there, but perhaps it’s originality and personality that they’re lacking. I give it a 1.8/5.