The Flips aren’t an emo band. Or, hell, maybe they are. Part of the confusion may stem from everybody using the loaded, often reductive word again to tout the nebulous genre’s resurgence in the wake of great records from Into It. Over It., Owen, and Iron Chic, or from the music monoculture’s seemingly recent realization that bands like Saves the Day are still making records and selling out venues.
But though The Flips, a nimble group of Chicago rockers, do occasionally channel the likes of Evan Weiss and Mike Kinsella on their latest record, A Harm Deep But Shining. Standout track “I’m Okay” devolves into the loopy fingerpicks and jaunty, melancholic vocals of classic Owen. That said, the band owes more to modern acts like Manchester Orchestra and Silversun Pickups, as well as Jimmy Eat World’s seminal Static Prevails. As it was on Jimmy Eat World’s debut, the production here is spot-on, smooth but not sleek, laden with enough rough edges to amplify the emotive intimacy of tracks like “Intro” and “God I’m Sorry”. Other deft production touches include “Cute”, where it’s hard to imagine the gorgeous ballad resonating so much without its fumbled fingerpicking and gentle undercurrent of feedback. Maybe that’s why it’s such a disappointment when “Cute” gives way to “Casino”, a gluttonous bastion of crunchy bro-rock riffs that would sound more at home on a Saliva record.
Still, vocalist Nick Sintos, whose versatile wail falls somewhere between Andy Hull and Finch’s Nate Barcalow, can sell every line about his heart with an urgency missing in most indie rock, even if he has a tendency to over-emote. But it’s never quite cringe-worthy; really, you just want to pat him on the head, put a beer in his hand. That sort of communal reaction is more in tune with the emo movement of yore, before it evolved into derogatory memes and crabcore videos. A Harm Deep But Shining reminds us that, sometimes, people feel. The Flips feel. And if that makes them an emo band, then The Flips are an emo band. And a good one at that.
Essential Tracks: “I’m Okay”, “Cute”, and “God I’m Sorry”