Killer Klassix- City Mouth; “Hollows” EP

An amazingly well assembled effort, at times “Hollows” falls short on delivering fully fleshed out tracks and melodies. However, it makes up for it with relatable material, accessible melodies, and surprises for the listener which elevate the tracks.


Antonio Llanos, Staff Writer

Whether you are on the cusp of 18, or just reaching your 30th birthday, you have questions: Who are we? Where are we going? What is our purpose here? Some consult religion to answer some questions. Others refer to the teachings of philosophers. Some just live. However we approach these questions, five individuals from the south suburbs of Illinois published their own approach spearheaded by their own vocalist’s inner turmoil.   

“Hollows” is the third EP by Chicago pop-punk/indie quintet, City Mouth. Released on April 13, 2018 and produced by fellow Chicago pop punk musician–Former Real Friends Vocalist– Dan Lambton. The EP is centralized in vocalist Matt Pow’s struggles with faith and self-doubt. An amazingly well-assembled effort, at times the EP falls short on delivering fully fleshed out tracks and melodies. However, it makes up for it with relatable material, accessible melodies and surprises for the listener that elevate the tracks.    

“Lay Awake” is a song about Pow’s contemplation of suicide under the pressures of inadequate practice of faith. The song is beautifully veiled in an up-beat melody that contrasts Pow’s lyrics while also delivering some of the most innovatively crafted lyrical catharsis I have heard in a long time. Towards the second half of the track, fellow vocalist and guitarist/keyboardist Jackie Heuser bellows into the song in a lyrical angst-driven turn, expressing frustration and exploring feelings of self-doubt. Wonderfully harmonized towards the end by the duo, “I thought I had it figured out/I thought I had the guts to let this go/The past few years have disagreed/You’ve been planting all these seeds in me/And they’re starting to grow into something that I can’t hold back anymore/For a second it was simple/I could take it, I was sure.”

“Curse My Name” is the second single from the EP. Pairing catharsis and pessimism, Pow exhibits his self-sabotaging tendencies to understand his own behaviors in an attempt to use the melody to fix it. Pow’s vocal melody and the song’s stereotypical pop-punk approach pair well, even when Heuser once again balances out the vocal effort on the track exhibiting not just the lyrical ramifications of Pow’s behavior, but also furthers the progression of the track. 

“Branches” follows these tracks and establishes Pow’s struggles with faith in a pessimistic view. Lyrical material highlights a push and pull between Pow’s faith in humanity over a faith in higher power. While the material implies an overarching sense of faith in the human condition, Pow’s well-crafted chorus denotes the solemness of attempting to keep faith when everything around him exhibits a lack of divine presence as shown by his chorus, “This is how almost every day ends/With me figuring everything out/And every new one begins with the new thing/I’ve found to be sad about/And I hate the way that I only write sad songs/I don’t get that thrill like I used to/And I hate these overly-romantic depictions of depression/And I hate that I’m part of that too/But searching for the will to change anything at all is useless.”

“Body and Blood” was the first single from the EP and uses the metaphor of Catholic eucharist to elaborate how faith has further damaged him rather than provide him with the path to happiness. Employing a traditional punk-type beat provided by drummer Jessica Burdeaux, Pow and Burdeaux exhibit a playful dynamic that immerses the listener in the dehumanizing nature of Catholic practices taken to the extreme as exhibited by the chorus of the track: “My body and blood, Lord/My soul and my skin/I’m not sure what they’re there for/But I know where they’ve been/And I know what these eyes have seen is easily forgotten/And every day goes by/And everything dies eventually/But nothing happens to the ghost.”  

“Head Trauma” highlights an exhibition of Midwestern musical efforts from Lambton, Sudden Suspension vocalist Brandon Stasi and the band’s effort to distinguish themselves in the Chicago pop punk scene. Overall, the track works with every one of the vocalists having their chance to shine while using the instrumental changes to shift to a different vocalist adding an enjoyable playful layer to Pow’s abstract interpretation of baptism. Each vocalist enters the track in a very call-response format while exiting once their verse is finished, they re-enter towards the final verse of the track, wonderfully harmonizing the final verse.   

“Anywhere But Here” is the sullen exploration of Pow’s self-doubt and succeeds enticing the listener with a lullaby-esque melody. Though well-written and composed from a minimalistic approach, the track leaves something more to be wanted. It feels like a low-effort track. Whereas common pop punk acts tend to use the slower, sometimes acoustic track appeal more emotionally, Pow’s use of the diddle falls a bit flat musically, more of a try, but less of a fully finalized composition all together.  The writing on the track is better, serving as an accessible confession for individuals who are going through depression. We often subscribe to the idea that if we go to another environment our problems would somehow dissipate in the path trailing behind us like Matt’s title suggests.  

“Stay Awake” is the final track that wraps up the EP. Using a ballad approach highlights how the previous “Anywhere But Here” could have been better composed to meet the melodic needs of the track. This track is an essential reassurance to the listeners that even though life may be difficult and exhibit intense adversity, it’s always worth persevering through. Using the listener and his band mates as means to justify “sticking around,” Pow’s resolution is implied that though he may not be happy with life, he finds solace from life’s strife in the love of those around him and his profession. These musings are further supported by the repetition from the initial song of the EP “(You are not alone, you are not alone)/You are not alone when you lay awake.”

What makes Pow’s lyrical catharsis beautiful is his exhibition of pain and inner turmoil enabling him the ability to turn his pain into the artful exploration that is this EP. Pow artfully exhibits his scars in order to show the listener not only to find what makes them happy, but to find what makes life worth living and wanting them to stick around long enough but something that makes the inner turmoil and moments of self-doubt worth fighting through.