Words by: Zoe Marquedant
Baltimore’s emo act Have Mercy has gone through some drastic changes since founding a over half a decade ago. Only a fraction of the band, which began as a standard rock quartet of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, now remains. Six years, two drummers and several other lineup changes later it is just vocalist/guitarist Brian Swindle and guitarist Nate Gleason left. Moreover, Swindle is the only founding member still playing under the moniker.
Whenever bands go through such extensive internal upheaval, even if the parting members leave on mutual terms, there’s always a question of whether the creative forces left and took all clever lines and guitar licks with them. So in the case of Have Mercy, do Swindle and newcomer Gleason create a sound that can rival the success of the band’s previous release 2014’s A Place Of Our Own? Can their newest release, Make The Best Of It, which came out this month also on Hopeless Records compare? Is it still the same band on the record? Or is there no evidence of what made Have Mercy’s Topshelf Records debut The Earth Pushed Back back in 2013.
Album opener “Smoke and Lace” is a weighty, steady jam reminiscent of the band’s first single “Let’s Talk About Your Hair.” Swindle leans on the grit in his voice to carry the vocals. Overall when looking at tracks like “Coexist”, it’s clear that the band hasn’t changed. Given the above mentioned concerns, this is a good sign. Whatever made you pick up a Have Mercy record before Make The Best Of It is still there. Points have to be rewarded for consistency. Any one tuning into “Drive” half-way even though the tune, would know quickly if not immediately that it’s a Have Mercy song. That is if they’d ever heard the band before.
However, Have Mercy is more repeating not refining themselves. Ultimately, Make The Best Of It is nothing listeners didn’t have already with previous releases. Lyrically, there are still lots of cigarettes, staying up, and reminiscing on lost love. There isn’t a lot of variety in the tone either. While this isn’t a glaring problem for a record to have and it is proof that Have Mercy knows their audience as well as their genre, it does prove that the band has confined itself to a comfort zone.
The only real problem with this is it keeps the stakes the same. Have Mercy isn’t doing anything to expand their audience or keeping their listeners interested. They’re preaching to the choir. “Good Christian Man” is a strong point in the album, but falls just short of being something suggestible to a non-Have Mercy fan. It’s just shy of really interesting. When compared to similar, albeit older bands like Wonder Years, who took each new release as an opportunity to pursue a sound entirely their own. Swingle could easily be another Dan “Soupy” Campbell or better if perhaps the band took more effort with their next record.
Still, Have Mercy fans will be happy to hear that despite the seeming evacuation of the lineup, the band’s still here.