The term ‘triple album’ often triggers a sense of dread in music aficionados. Often artists who attempt double-let alone triple-records just don’t have enough quality material to fill all of the contributing discs. Rather than one great album, the result is often multiple mediocre, to poor collections of songs. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, and sometimes something truly exceptional is produced. This is certainly the case for the Early November’s The Mother, The Mechanic, and The Path.
Released in the summer of 2006, the record arrived during the peak of the emo-pop era. While the market was saturated, quantity certainly didn’t always amount to quality. Having released their solid, if not spectacular debut, (The Room’s Too Cold) on Drive-Thru Records three years previously, fans were expecting more of the same from a band very much in the 2006 emo mould. However, what fans weren’t aware of, was the turmoil going on behind the scenes. Frontman Ace Enders, guitarist Joseph Marro, bassist Sergio Anello and drummer Jeff Kummer, went into the studio in February 2005; with the explicit aim of creating a concept album. What wasn’t so concrete was just what that concept should be. This led to a lot of wasted studio time, where songs were re-recorded, or abandoned altogether. The story changed multiple times throughout recording; following different avenues, hitting several dead ends, and facing numerous rejections of the plot by Drive-Thru. The lack of focus ultimately took its toll on Ace, forcing a breakdown midway through recording. Postponing work on the project for the good of his health, the release date for the album was delayed from June 2005, to July 2006.
Following some time away from the project, Ace and the band reconvened, this time joined by former guitar tech, Bill Lugg as a third guitarist. Now armed with a plot that both Ace and the record label were comfortable with, the band went back to the studio, to finally get the album on record. This time it wouldn’t get the best of them, and the results of the second stint in the studio were nothing short of extraordinary. What came out of those recordings was an audio chronicle of love, abandonment, and ultimately the cyclical nature of life and relationships. Split in to three parts, the story was titled, The Mother, The Mechanic, and The Path. Each disc, representing a character of the same name, is vastly different from the last, but ultimately contributes equally to the overall picture. The album’s first act is The Mechanic; the out-and-out rock disc of the trio. Described by the band as ‘the safe bet’, if the album had been limited to one disc, it would have resembled the songs here more than anything else. Taken in this context, this is a solid mid-noughties emo record. Pounding pop-punk tracks such as ‘Money in His Hand’ and ‘Decoration’ sit perfectly alongside the emotional indie-rock of ‘No Good at Saying Sorry’ and ‘Long Talks’.
In the grand scheme of the triple album, however, The Mechanic tells the story of its namesake perfectly. Rough sounding, and abrasive in places, the Mechanic’s rage is not borne of hate, rather a misunderstood love for a son he is growing apart from. The shrieked vocals of ‘The Car in 20’ is a crescendo to this volatile relationship, and ‘Figure it Out’ the grim realisation that the relationship may not be salvageable.
The Mother is the Yin to the Mechanic’s Yang in almost every possible way. Sonically, it’s a more acoustic, stripped back record when compared to its predecessor. The band using a wider variety of instruments; embracing everything from trumpets to pipe organs to create a much more relaxed atmosphere, compared to the emotional highs and lows of the Mechanic. ‘A Little More Time’ and ‘Hair’ are the kind of technically accomplished indie-rock songs that many bands at the time attempted, but very few could actually pull off successfully. ‘From Here to LA’ evoked a more wistful, country sound, which further contributed to the calmer feel of the second disc.
The softer side was entirely deliberate, as The Mother is the lynchpin, keeping the Mechanic and The Path from tearing each other apart. She is the one trying to bring the family together, and repair the damage done to the relationship between The Path and his father. The songs on The Mother convey this haunting reassurance perfectly, and this is arguably the standout disc of the trio. While the band state that The Mechanic would be their first choice if the release was to be a single album, the musicianship and lyricism on The Mother would have provided an equally strong release.
The true strength of this collection of songs, however, is how it bridges the gap between the former and the latter instalments. The final disc-The Path-is a massive departure from the makeup of the rest of the album. A mixture of samples from tracks from the previous two discs, and some new songs are interspersed between spoken word pieces. It becomes clear that these monologues are snippets of the conversation that The Path is having with his therapist. Telling the story of how his mother and father met, their abandoning of him upon his birth, his life with them, and ultimately the failing relationship between him and his father; it talks the listener through the story they have heard through the tracks on The Mechanic and The Path.
Concluding with the revelation that the Path has had a son that he isn’t prepared to raise; his despair at repeating his father’s mistakes are all too clear. Out of the three discs, the Path is by far the hardest, but most rewarding listen. The Mother, The Mechanic and The Path is quite unlike anything else in the Early November’s discography, and the 2006 emo scene as a whole. The pressure that the band had felt going into the studio, only abated temporarily, and although the album was released to positive reviews, the experience clearly left Ace and the others emotionally and physically drained. Following the record’s release, the band toured on the album for less than 6 months, and in March 2007, the band announced their intention to go on hiatus, following the conclusion of their May tour.
After some time away from the band, and a chance to pursue other projects, The Early November reunited in June 2011. Since the reunion, the band has released two albums-In Currents in 2012, and Imbue in 2015. Both are strong records, and demonstrate the bands ability to produce a distinct hybrid of alternative and indie-rock, and to do it to a high quality. Both, however, pale in significance to The Mother, The Mechanic and The Path in terms of ambition and originality. It is certainly the pinnacle of their career so far.