ALBUM REVIEW: Halfway Down, by Time and Pressure – PLUS Vocalist Drew Maxey Talks Britney Spears and Misogyny in America

Time and Pressure. A hardcore band out of St. Louis, Missouri that brings  a fresh approach to the genre, much like how Bad Religion influenced the landscape of punk. Along with the blistering aggressiveness that comes naturally to the sound and energy of hardcore, Time and Pressure harness an educated awareness to their content that makes for an interesting listening experience. Not just heart and soul get poured into every song, but reasoned anger stemming from a world of education, as vocalist Drew Maxey`s other side of life is teaching English and literature at a public school in their area.

Halfway Down, their second full length album, releases just two years after their debut full length, The Gateway City Sound. It sits at a healthy 10 songs,each song barely hitting two minutes long. I will be up-front while reviewing this record: Everybody did a fantastic job. It`s an aggressive hardcore album that I can`t wait to scream in somebody`s face while getting kicked in the jaw, but what pulled me in more than anything else was the awe-inspiring display of lyricism.

The band start us off with Throwing Roses. A buildup of a classic 90s-punk riff leads us into the absolute ferocity of Drew’s vocals. The first track on a record always weighs the heaviest, as it`s what we lean on to carry us into the rest of the record. We’re either hooked, hesitant, or bow out immediately. Needless to say, this song will hook you. A powerful tale of a person unable to pull themselves up from their personal depths while consistently ignored by the very people they always helped before. “Do you ever pray for gold to rust? Do you ever wish that thorns can kill? I do.” It not only gives us the reason for the album title, it sets the stage for what you should expect out of this band – Emotional fury. Aggressive hardcore punk music laced with incredibly written lyrics.

Theseus. The Greek legend. The son of Poseidon. The slayer of the Minotaur. The second track off of Time and Pressure’s sophomore LP. Whatever you want to call it, this is a powerful anthem. Introspective lyrics that tell the narrator’s story of wanting the life of a musician, but not wanting to live a life of regrets.  “How can I know that when I come home from this, I will be the same person who left?” is the line that solidified this track as my favorite off the record, a song chock-full of personal anguish.

Wrapped Up is full of two-stepping energy, all 1:18 seconds of it. It’s in, it`s out, and you’re left with whiplash. Another absurd example of the amount of story they’re able to pack into such a small package, dealing with themes of closing off yourself so much that you’re left unable to feel anything at all. Now you can cry while you’re two-stepping!

Continuing the theme of changing up what hardcore lyricsm can be about, Curtain Call, third track in, is another personal tale, only this time taking a step inside the bedroom to discuss a personal relationship. While I’m sure this was not intentional, my mind kept creeping back to La Dispute’s Room of the House, which is wholeheartedly a compliment. It discusses a romantic partner that doesn’t quite know how to tell the truth about anything at all, much less about themselves, and the emotional toll that takes on the other. “You pulled me in closer with plagiarized body language. Promises never meant to keep, made with bedroom eyes in love-stained sheets.” As one writer to another, thank you for that line.

Four tracks in and they had me fooled. On The Waterfront starts off just as the name implies, feeling like you’re on a waterfront with the waves of a slow guitar melody washing over your feet. Though this doesn`t last long before the hardcore wave comes crashing in again, it was still a relief to take a small breath somewhere in the middle of the album. After the crash, it soon becomes one of my favorites off the album, particularly (go figure) lyrically. The first half of the song seems to carry on the theme of not wanting to die before a certain point in your life, feeling lost in a sea full of wanting. Then, the second half of the song turns on its head, and instead focuses thematically on a relationship lost, and produces my absolute favorite line on the entire album, “Roadmaps are timelines you can travel. Here we were lovers, but down the street we were friends. So I go slowly when the light turns green to put off crossing into the present tense.

               Between The World and You brings us back to the forefront of pure political anger. A harsh song to its core with lyrics ringing out, “The dream, it taunts from atop glass ceilings. And it haunts like ghosts wholly American.” From crying inside your bedroom at night, to the streets at the front of a protest screaming your beliefs, this record has everything you might be feeling. “Some dreams deserve to burn. Some dreams are made to die” makes Time and Pressure`s stance on the current state of affairs in America very clear.

The ten track album ends with a song titled Paradise Lost. The lyrics, as with every other track on this record, were pulling me in, but I wasn’t quite sure what they were about. Feeling a little lost myself, I went directly to the source. Here`s what Drew Maxey, the vocalist, had to say about it:

“ ‘Paradise Lost’ is a song that uses the plight of Britney Spears – a strangely specific subject that has been in the public discourse lately – as an examination of the way we as a people view and treat women. It talks about the ways powerful men try to shape women to fit their wants and desires, and how this type of misogyny and sexism is present in the Christian Bible, with many citing the Garden of Eden story as the origins of society’s attitudes toward women.”

There you have it. The ending of this massive hardcore undertaking pulls its focus to Britney Spears, and I genuinely wouldn’t have it any other way. “Don`t let them see you cry. Don’t let them see you weak. Don’t give them any indication that you’re human. Because if they know you can bleed, then they know that they can kill you,” and – “Shave your head to keep their fingers out of your hair, and swing whatever weapons you can from what you’ve got.” Leave it to this incredibly clever lyricist to relate Britney Spear’s ongoing struggle with media and her family`s ownership of her to the story of Adam and Eve, the overall treatment of women in our society, and be able to steer all of that to the end of a hardcore-punk record. Picture perfect.

While the musicianship is obviously top-notch on this record, from the guitars and drums to the recording/mixing, it’s undoubtedly the lyricism that pull me in. The amount of info-dumping Drew manages to squeeze into these tracks that barely ever hit the two minute mark while still maintaining an incredible level of vocal energy earns nothing but massive respect. Time and Pressure is a force of nature in the hardcore scene, and a band you won’t soon forget. Their sophomore album, Halfway Down (Out this Friday, July 30th) is one full of political and sociopolitical awareness, but also the raw passion felt in relationships, both with a significant other and playing music. It’s a personal album through and through, and easily one of my favorite released this year, arguably my favorite hardcore release so far. If you’re only interested in beefy breakdowns, you may want to skip this one; but if you`re interested in experiencing somebody reflecting on their life, and tackling issues in our society, all while being penned with a gentle hand and screamed over 90s punk riffs and two-stepping beats, then this release is absolutely for you.

Time and Pressure – Halfway Down

(Out July 30th via Safe Inside Records)

Track list:

Throwing Roses


Wrapped Up

Curtain Call

On the Waterfront

Between the World and You

Psalm 38:9

Old Scratch

Horoscope Nine

Paradise Lost

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