By Allyson Bills
Diverse sounds have been coming out of Brooklyn, New York as of lately, and rockers Highly Suspect by-way-of Cape Cod, Massachusetts are contributing in the land of hipsters. The trio of Highly Suspect comprised of vocalist, guitarist, and synthesist Johnny Stevens, and the rhythm section of twin brothers Rich Meyer on bass and Ryan Meyer on drums have gained considerable national attention by being named to “Rolling Stones’ Ten Artists You Need To Know.” They also played Bonnaroo and toured with Catfish and the Bottlemen. All of this happened to Highly Suspect before they even released an album. Mister Asylum is Highly Suspect’s debut album produced by another Cape Cod native Joel Hamilton, who has worked with artists such as Black Keys and Talib Kweli. The result is a straight-up rock album.
The album beings with the title track, “Mister Asylum,” a very sludgy number that reminds me of Stone Temple Pilots. You can tell right away in this opening track that Stevens really writes with his heart on his sleeve, “I feel like I’m ready to blow // When you’re up against the world, it shows.” I felt the honesty myself when listening to this track.
In “Lydia,” a Foo Fighters-esque track, Stevens sings of his failed relationship: “I can’t fucking breath // Much less believe the truth.” “Lydia” is a song that everyone can relate to at some point in their lives. “Mom,” a single which has premiered on “Entertainment Weekly,” a mid-tempo track in which Stevens talks of his strained relationship with his mother: “I just want to tell you and doing fine // I’m not looking for your money.” Yet another song that is honest and personable to the listener who may also have experienced issues with their mothers.
However, Stevens is possibly too honest for his own good at times on Mister Asylum. In “F**ck Me Up,” he sings about infidelity. The open lyrics on “F**ck Me Up” are quite revealing: “Woman, I can see your ring // I can tell it don’t mean a thing // You better be careful what you’re asking for // I’ve got a loaded gun and I used it before.” When listening to this track, it was hard to tell if this infidelity was a fantasy or real. Stevens leaves it up to the listener.
The twin brothers in Highly Suspect’s rhythm section are the glue the holds the band together instrumentally. In “Lost,” Rich Meyers’ bass parts have a grooving feel to them, which gives Stevens' lyrics of “Will it ever be the same again?” that extra oomph. “23,” which features the vocals of Sasha Dobson of Puss n Boots, is one of the standout tracks off Mister Asylum because Ryan Meyers’ drum beats match both Stevens’ and Dobson’s harmonies perfectly.
The final track off Mister Asylum, "Claudeland," is a grungy, fast track which sums up the theme of Highly Suspect’s debut effort. In “Claudeland,” Stevens sings about his friend Claude, who is the life of the party and doesn’t give a fuck. The entire album is about not giving a fuck. Stevens just wants to “Dance motherfucker // Dance the night away” and forget about everything else.
Although I appreciated Steven’s honesty in some his lyrics, and Highly Suspect’s overall musicianship, Mister Asylum is average. Now that they have an album and touring under their belt, hopefully they can find themselves more on their future albums. Musically, Highly Suspect has the potential, however it’s still a question mark lyrically at some points on the album. If you enjoy bands that are the musical offsprings of Stone Temple Pilots and Kings of Leon, then you will enjoy Highly Suspect’s debut effort. If this album is not your thing, then there are other rock bands out there to suit your fancy.