When I say I would have loved Ease the Medic in high school, I mean it in the most endearing way possible.
The longstanding Columbus quartet has weathered a handful of lineup changes since frontman Mike Finch founded the band via online classified ads in 2005, but the sound has remained essentially unchanged.
This heart-on-sleeve breed of post-hardcore is inherently youthful; it scans as adolescent angst even when it’s a delivery system for thirtysomething angst. That thirtysomethings are playing it now nods to the fact that it peaked in popularity around the time I enrolled in high school, and I’m turning 30 in less than a month.
I hesitate to use the word “emo” because nowadays that implies a certain compactness, a type of vacuum-sealed pop-punk designed to fit neatly between the racks of claustrophobic retail spaces and hold the attention of those whose Monster dependency is eclipsed only by their addiction to “Call of Duty.” But when Sunny Day Real Estate was helping to forge this style, it had an epic sweep to it. It was raw and expansive. Ease the Medic is more like that.
They were just the right locals to open for …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead last Saturday at Ace of Cups. Humongous power chords tweaked with slight dissonance hung overhead like storm clouds, and the rhythm section was marked by that same gravel-dented throttle that undergirded Trail of Dead’s Source Tags and Codes. The songs weren’t usually tremendous, but the execution was impressive, a benchwarmer getting by on heart and hustle.
Speaking of hearts (or heartburn), Finch and Adam Thornburgh traded wails and even infused a huge wordless gang-vocal chorus worthy of Arcade Fire. The band was nimble enough to pull off punchy staccato parts but loose enough to let a free-flowing number like “Eleven” breathe. (That one’s a loud, propulsive cover of Columbus musician Sean Gardner’s fragile four-track demo.) When they aimed for a grand finale, it was appropriately explosive.
It did feel a little dated, but that’s no reason to discard music. The funny thing is, what with all this ’90s nostalgia afoot, Ease the Medic’s approach is due to come back in style any day now.