Written by Eric Sperrazza
Since 2002, The Higher has been everpresent in the Pop/Emo Rock scene. A longtime staple at Epitaph Records, the band toured with a venerable who’s who in the scene at the time, from Panic! At The Disco & Motion City Soundtrack to Ronnie Radke’s Escape The Fate. They even did the quintessential stint on the Vans Warped Tour. But, with an over-saturated genre and lineup changes, the band never quite broke through to superstardom like some of their peers. By 2010, it looked like the band was all but finished, but the release of the N*Sync cover of “Bye, Bye, Bye” sparked an interest in old fans and new listeners to hear more.
October 14th marked the band’s response to those fans waiting with bated breath for new content by releasing their new EP, Elvis in Wonderland. Produced by Mike Pepe (of Taking Back Sunday, As It Is, Bayside & Anthony Green fame.), the title song on the album starts you like a roller-coaster launching into what I can only describe as a high-energy Disneyland ride into debauchery in Vegas. The music invokes that feeling of driving down the strip and seeing hundreds of people, under millions of lights, on the hunt for hedonism of some form or another, with the soundtrack of horns, sirens & various volumes of music congealing into an immersive buzz around you. With that, if that was the goal, this song stuck the landing…but it does not set the stage for the rest of the album.
I feared the whole album would be my ears digesting a smörgåsbord of layers. But as it turns out, the rest of the album has shades of their Warped Tour days. The arrival to Wonderland was one thing, but now Elvis was in the building and, more importantly, in the pit. Songs like “Free Ride” and “Are We High?” offer a fun Pop Punk familiarity. But, the crown jewel of this album undeniably is the introspective and personal-feeling “Pours in the Morning,” the true crescendo to a calling card that says, “Emo Pop Rock isn’t dead. Now it just has depth.”
My only criticism is if you pay a loving homage to Tom Petty, you have to quote him correctly. The lyrics are “Oh my-my. Oh, hell yes. Honey, put on that party dress.” Or go a different route and not paraphrase “Last Dance With Mary Jane” at all, and that would be fine, too.
This album swerved me from start to finish. I found some really fun and even thought-provoking moments while listening with purpose. Maybe the glass ceiling to superstardom was waiting for “Pours in the Morning” to break through it. Perhaps The Higher’s return is really a “Never Left” on their journey to greatness. Maybe this is only the beginning.