In 2007, Tooth and Nail Records’ ridiculously catchy alternative-rock group Sullivan called it quits on their headlining tour promoting their then-recently released sophomore album, Cover Your Eyes. Following the breakup, three members went on to join The Afterlife Kids, while drummer Phil Chamberlain went on to form Solid State Records’ To Speak of Wolves. Seven years later, the band is now back in their original lineup, signed to Spartan Records and is ready to release their third record, Heavy is the Head.
The first single from the album dissolved any doubt that this would be a weak comeback. “What’s Good for the King” kicks off with a sweet synthesizer melody and soft-spoken words telling a story of what appears to be a neglected suburban family on the verge of disaster. The song sounds more like a lullaby than a rock song until the full band comes in at the 50 second mark. The story jumps from innocent neglect (“There’s rust in the pipes / and the plants have turned brown”) to something much darker (“Mom’s still in bed and the kitchen’s on fire.”) Musically, on this song, the band has never been this beautiful and different. Lyrically, they have never been this haunting. The juxtaposition of sugary rock hooks and dark subject matter makes it arguably the best song the band has released. If the rest of the album were on the same level, there is little doubt that it would be one of the best albums of 2014.
Unfortunately, none of the other songs come close to the unique nature of “What’s Good for the King.” Most of the tracks fall under a typical mid-’00s emo-rock sound made famous by bands like My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday.
The music on the album is more mature than the band’s previous releases, but most of the writing feel equally juvenile, as if nothing changed lyrically in the seven years off. The songs still possess the same third-wave emo angst of 2005 with lyrics like, “You are my favorite drug / I hope you understand” and “Suicide, I’m gonna make you mine / A photograph that blurred the lines of love.”
Fans who liked them before (and still connect with ’00s emo) will happily eat up another half hour of new music from Sullivan. Perhaps more ground will be covered next time around.