Alexisonfire is back with new single, “Familiar Drugs”
Alexisonfire is a very important band. Some say the only band ever. Not just to me, and not only the thousands of other Southern Ontario Punks who grew up in the aughts, but to a massive global cult following. There’s a reason nearly a decade after their first ever “Last Show Ever” the band continues to sell out merch lines, vinyl repressing’s, and yes even the occasional show, no matter what continent it’s on.
But my personal love for the band is exactly what makes processing their return so hard.
You see, I went to their “Farewell” Tour in 2012, and even though the show was great, I couldn’t help but feel sad. What I believed at the time was the band’s last ever release, the 2010 Dog’s Blood EP was new, exciting, and refreshingly heavy. It seemed like such a strange note to end on, like there had perhaps been more new music in the works, but the bands deteriorating personal relationships managed to prevent it from ever seeing the light of day. I was bitter. I blamed them all, but Dallas Green, one of the bands vocalists and guitar players became the scapegoat, as his desire to pursue his folk-rock solo project City and Colour was cited as one of the reasons for the bands split. I watched him trade in his toque for a straw hat, on his way to international stardom.
I know I sound bitter, and I was. My favourite band was taken away from me. Plus I was 15, not much means more to a 15 year old than their favourite band.
As the years passed, I came to terms with the breakup. I realized at the end of the day, all artists are people, people who have the right to walk away from their art if it no longer satisfies them, or worse, is ruining their lives and friendships. I no longer felt any ill will to any of the members of the band, and I was able to separate the artists, from the art. If spending years apart is what they needed to keep their childhood friendships from deteriorating to the point of no return, then of course I would understand.
I knew Alexisonfire would always have a place in my heart, and the more I thought about it, their breakup was probably a good thing. What’d ol’ Neil say again? It’s better to burn out than to fade away? I was pretty happy that Alexisonfire never faded away. AoF always seemed to do the right thing, embodying the spirit of the Hometown Hero that they always were to me. And what was even more impressive than that, I could go back and enjoy any one of their records. Batting 1.000 Is hard for any band, let alone one that existed for nearly 12 years. In 2017 when they played their first significant Canadian dates since the initial breakup, I went and stood in the back like the old man of 20 that I was, and I was content. They put on a great show, and I once again felt a new wave of peace, as I was able to see them without the looming sadness of a loved one’s departure.
Flash Forward to today: Alexisonfire releases their first new song in nearly a decade, the independently recorded single Familiar Drugs.
The title is more telling than you could know. Now that I had cleansed my system of the hold the band once had on me, was it possible to taste that familiar sound and remain unscathed? Or would I be thrown fully back into addiction, offering fellatio in return for previously unheard demo’s, and swearing death on any City and Colour fan who comments on one of Dallas’s insta posts looking for a new album–all for a band who’s activity has been sporadic at best for nearly a decade.
But we all know what my real fear was, what if it just wasn’t good?
What if my hometown hero’s, the band that had batted a thousand, finally struck out?
Sadly that’s probably the reality for many Alexisonfire fans. It can’t be expected that 9 years out of the game, every fan will buy into the new product they’re offering–and that’s OK. Frankly I had to tell myself a hundred times that things were going to be different, and not to get my hopes up before listening to the new track. I had to do the math in my head “Well if they were in their late 20’s when they broke up, they’re in their late 30’s now. What’s that going to sound like?” This may seem overdramatic, but this was the most excited and nervous I had ever been for a piece of music.
But I finally pressed play. I wasn’t sure how I felt so I pressed play again, and then again, and again. I was hooked. Not because the band had come back with a nostalgia fuelled rager of a tune, but because they came back the right way. The song has passion, energy, and aggression. You can hear it in the voices of all 3 singers-Alexisonfire wants to be here–. The itch has gone unscratched for too long. This isn’t a money grab-this is 5 friends getting together in a small room and playing music for each other.
Can I trust them with my heart? Probably not. Am I now desperately waiting for a full length album? Well yeah, kinda. But good music is a hard drug to kick. I take solace in the fact that my favourite band is friends again. Speaking from experience, when your parents divorce, you can’t ever expect them to be the same again. But you sure can feel the sigh of relief when they’re able to stand in the same room together without going at each other’s throats. Alexisonfire is doing more than that, this single is a second chance at a first date you could say, and if all goes well, we could be looking at a second honeymoon in no time.
In the name of friendship, Listen to Alexisonfire’s Familiar Drugs below.