Quiet Company Re-release A Dead Man on My Back: Shine Honesty

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With A Dead Man on My Back: Shine Honesty Revisited Quiet Company prove that you can go home again, though you may decide to do some redecorating. I started listening to Quiet Company about a month before SXSW 2012 when their third LP We Are All Where We Belong was barely half a year old. It blew me away at the time and I remember saying, “These guys are gonna be big. These guys are going national.” A little over a year later and Quiet Company are in the midst of doing the hard work required to see that very thing happen. Having given up their day jobs and made the transition to being a full time band toward the end of 2012, Quiet Company have since been touring like crazy across the country. It’s a wonder that they have time to record at all, but Taylor Muse and company are dedicated and A Dead Man on My Back is more than just a re-release of Quiet Company’s first record; it’s a barometer reading for how far this band has come and how far they yet plan to go.

Originally released in 2006, Shine Honesty was the first official recording by Quiet Company, then barely a band at all with much of the music being made by Muse himself. As time passed, Taylor Muse and Quiet Company went through a lot of changes. Muse’s piano-driven rock began to fill out with guitars, percussion, and horns as the band took the form it has today. The band’s song writing and subject matters began to mature, and they eventually split with their label Northern Records to go it on their own. At this point, Shine Honesty has been out of print for a few years and with Northern Records owning the masters, Quiet Company decided that if anyone was going to hear these songs, they’d just have to record them again – but this time as a full band.

A Dead Man on My Back takes what was formerly a piano-driven bedroom recording and updates it with Quiet Company’s current complement of multi-instrumentalists. What’s surprising is how well these songs hold up. Had you told me this was a new Quiet Company album, I might not think twice about it. Muse wears his heart on his sleeve when he writes and his songs burst with sincerity as he sings of his own hopes, fears, and loves. Filling 15 tracks in total (including two new ones), A Dead Man runs the gamut from ballads, to anthems, to pop rock, and back again.

Leading off with “How Many Times Do You Want to Be In Love”’s slow build, the album gains steam quickly. Indie rocker “Fashionable” carries the trend with a song that almost feels like a precursor to “It’s Better to Spend Money…” from the band’s 2009 LP, but Quiet Company aren’t afraid to slow things down for the rest of first half. Before too long “The Emasculated Man and the City that Swallowed Him” explodes onto the scene with peppy pianos and upbeat tempo to usher in the back half of this album, culminating in two new tracks that have whet my appetite for the band’s next release of new material.

While dressed up in new clothes, there are aspects of A Dead Man on My Back that do date themselves slightly, though it would take a somewhat seasoned Quiet Company fan to catch them. For example, a good majority of Muse’s early songs are love songs. While there’s nothing wrong with that, one of the things that I found most impressive about We Are All Where We Belong was the breadth of emotion that was being explored there. If anything, that record proved that Quiet Company can do sad, frightened, and angry just as well as happy and in love and it’s the kind of maturation that is difficult to add to old songs. All told, as far as re-releases go, this is one that new and old Quiet Company fans alike can find something to like about, even if they own a copy of the original. Currently on tour, I’d expect to see Quiet Company back in town a few more times before the end of the year and if what I’ve heard is true, this may not be the last recording we get from them this year.

-Brian Audette