We Are Augustines, Rise Ye Sunken Ships

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 12.29.11 in Reviews

Rise Ye Sunken Ships

We Are Augustines

In the summer of 2009, Billy McCarthy lost his brother James to suicide and his band, Pela, to the turmoil that resulted. Armed with a stash of songs meant to be that band’s sophomore effort, McCarthy and Pela guitarist Eric Sanderson retrenched, drawing on their anguish instead of running from it and using it to fuel the ragged, bleary-eyed chronicle of suffering and, ultimately, triumph that is Rise Ye Sunken Ships. “Keep your head up, kid, I know you can swim/ but you gotta move your legs,” McCarthy pleads in “Augustine,” and the lyric could serve as the album’s summary statement. Fusing the blue-collar bar rock of Gaslight Anthem with the bleeding-heart desperation of Frightened Rabbit, We Are Augustines write songs that hurtle forward, guitars tumbling over snares and shoved aside by organs, all glued together with lyrics that match defeat and victory at a perfect one-to-one ratio: “We’ll raise our glass/ to borrowed cash”; “And all the words/ can all get spoken/ I know you tried/ you’re forgiven.” What emerges is a clear-eyed depiction of loss that neither romanticizes it nor wallows in it, but recognizes the only solution is to keep moving. The title, after all, begins with the word “Rise.”