Why ‘Trainwreck’ Matters

Originally posted on 25/2/10

It was the year 2005. I hit up a random music blog in the hope of finding something new, my listening habits being diluted and destroyed by a teenage obsession with Fueled By Ramen. I wanted something visceral, something destructive, something that had a little bit more than ‘I want to fuck you and hope you want to fuck me too’. So, clicking the post-hardcore tag (I was getting pretty into At The Drive-In and Circa Survive and thought that it might be a good bet), I stumbled upon an album entitled ‘Trainwreck’ by Boys Night Out. I vaguely remembered the name – they’d been reviewed in Kerrang! for their debut – and the cover looked pretty awesome. I wasn’t quite aware what was going to happen. But as soon as I unzipped that album and listened to it through, I knew that I had discovered a musical masterpiece.

The thing is, ‘Trainwreck’ is the only good Boys Night Out album. Their first album, ‘Make Yourself Sick’ isn’t anything to shout about. Their self-titled, which came after ‘Trainwreck’, is fucking awful. It defies all logic, but there it is – ‘Trainwreck’ is potentially one of the best albums ever written, and it comes from a less than average band. Perhaps it has something to do with the appearance of Kara Dupuy, their short lived keyboard player/backing vocalist, which added a completely new dimension to their sound. Or maybe, it has to do with the fact that ‘Trainwreck’ is a concept album, and a pretty screwed up one at that.

Coheed and Cambria officially stole the spotlight when they released ‘The Second Stage Turbine Blade’ in 2002, and subsequent albums all based upon an absolutely crazy comic book world (of which comics actually exist) which would take at least another article to explain. Curious? Go here. But either way, the world of Coheed and Cambria and their children captivated the ‘alternative’ listeners, to put it simply. It was like nothing we’d ever heard before. Concept albums were relegated to power metal and prog rock, and here was something that… rocked! The Coheed revolution sparked a few other fantastic concept albums, including the first two Armor For Sleep albums, but that also requires another article to discuss and perhaps one day, when I write a book on the rock scene in the 2000s and how much it equally owned and sucked, I’ll go into greater depth. But we’re here to talk about Boys Night Out. And well… ‘Trainwreck’ is pretty incredible, and certainly the best of all the concept albums that began to spring up in the scene.

The story isn’t too complicated, but insanely fucked up. In essence, the main character, The Patient, has excessively violent nightmares which one day, spill over into real life, and he kills his wife in his sleep. After a murder trial, he is declared insane and sent to a mental hospital in the hopes of rehabilitation. A brief stint makes the Patient believe he’s getting worse by being in there and he’s ready to leave, so the Doctor releases him back into society where he retains a massive sense of guilt and cuts off his hands to prevent himself from killing anyone again. And this is told in the most graphic of ways. Needless to say, he goes back into hospital and is given a shit ton of drugs, and ends up writing this song in his head which becomes the key part of the album – he just can’t get it out of his head and it drives him further into insanity. He convinces the Doctor to let him have friends over and kills them so he can see his wife again and try and finish off the song. Oh, and she’s the one singing this song in his head, to make things even crazier. So, to finish the song, he either has to kill the Doctor or himself, and well… it isn’t the Doctor who ends up as a bloated, overdosed corpse. Yeah.

It sounds like something out of a comic book, although it’s not imitative of the Coheed stuff at all. And whilst the story itself is compelling, it’s the music and the way that it interacts with the story that really shines throughout. Opening track, ‘Introducing’ is chilling to the bone, opening with muted guitar tones and a voiceover provided by the Doctor. Unlike the rest of Boys Night Out’s material, it’s relatively sedate for the most part, despite being excessively dark. The screaming is limited, and this really aids the album, by providing just moments of anxiety and paranoia. Kara’s vocals on ‘Relapsing’ as the Patient’s wife are the high point of the album and fit perfectly in a wonderfully tender, yet haunting song. It’s ridiculously romantic – the acoustic guitar alone sends shivers down your spine – but you can’t deny the underlying feeling that something is very, very wrong. The soft tones just don’t seem right straight after one of the most intense and metallic songs on the album (‘Purging’). This is a reasonably common theme throughout the album, and a lot of the time, the darkest moments are juxtaposed with the most melodic and calming riffs.

And that’s the beauty of ‘Trainwreck’ – it can completely knock you sideways when you aren’t expecting it. It’s also ridiculously catchy in places that shouldn’t be; for example, in ‘Composing’, the lyrics “So come over to my house/Catch up over dinner/We are having strychnine and sirloin/Port wine and paint thinner” are sung in the most upbeat and awesome way. I can’t convey it with justice via text, so you’ll just have to go pick up the album and find out for yourself.

But why does ‘Trainwreck’ matter so much? It’s fairly unknown, virtually impossible to find within the UK and didn’t attract much of a fan base. However, it’s one of the biggest influences to me as a writer. Upon first listen, my thoughts were “Fuck, I wish I could write something as incredible as this”, and not from a musician’s point of view either. The story is one of the most compelling and haunting I’ve ever come across and if I can think of something anywhere near as original, then I’m onto a winner. It’s also proof that concept albums can transcend the banal (read: The Black Parade) and the metal to combine both great music and a great story, which unfortunately, doesn’t really happen any more. The post-hardcore concept album reached its height at 2005-2006 with Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, Armor For Sleep and Boys Night Out. Therefore, ‘Trainwreck’ matters, not because it stands alone, but because it’s timeless, unlike the latest Armor For Sleep album, it’s got a definite and individual story, unlike Circa Survive, and it’s easy to understand and appreciate, unlike Coheed and Cambria. That’s not to say that a concept album needs to be viewed as a concept album – it’s easy to appreciate them on a purely musical basis, and it’s very easy to do that to ‘Trainwreck’. But ‘Trainwreck’ simply stands apart from the rest of the crowd and provides a musical experience like no other.

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