Time Spent Driving – ‘Passed & Presence’

By Lucinda Livingstone

Sixteen years in the making, emotional indie rockers Time Spent Driving have released their first full-length since reforming in 2012. With a career spanning the last 3 decades the band return with the three original core members plus a couple of fresh faces to bring us ‘Passed & Presence’; a dark album with low-fi soundscapes and intense emotive undertones.

With the resurgence of emo, minus the studded belts, eyeliner and ridiculous side fringes, a Time Spent Driving revival may not have been at the top of everyone’s list. American Football and Mineral may have stolen the spotlight for long-awaited comebacks, so baring this in mind ‘Passed & Presence’ may have been a little overdue, with a three year wait after the band announced they were getting back together. This didn’t quite align with the ‘everything immediately’ culture we live in today, but it was definitely worth the wait.

With only 8 years active out of 16, this is still an impressive career for the Santa Cruz emo pioneers. They’ve had a huge amount of time to shape their sound, with enough space to visit alternative projects in between. Their early works ‘Walls Between Us’ and ‘Just Enough Bright’ caught the eyes of various indie labels within the states and Europe such as Session, Doghouse, Chestnut Café and Unfun Records. This opened up new doors for the guys to tour overseas, instead of just treading the West Cost of the US which was how their early career panned out.

‘Passed & Presence’ won’t instantly appeal to a new listener, and might take a few plays to really connect with. For existing fans it’s a blast from the past that will conjure up an abundance of nostalgic thoughts of where you were and what you were doing the last time you listened to a Time Spent Driving record. With 9 tracks lasting just under an hour this album isn’t the easiest of listening, with most tracks exceeding 5 minutes.

Tracks such as ‘Hey, You Dropped Something’ and ‘Weight of the Water’ really take you back to TSD’s early sound, but on the whole the band have a much more mature approach to writing this time around, and after sixteen years of practice you’d expect nothing less. ‘Through the Cage’ is a soft opener to the album but really defines where the band are in their career right now. The lyrics are eloquently written and Jon Cattivera’s vocals are especially intense throughout. ‘Blame the Valley’ is the highlight of the record, and possibly one of the darkest, most exceptionally written tracks we’ve heard from an emo band in years. The lyrics are an open letter, and intensely build throughout the seven minute epic, ending with a huge build up of overlapping one-liners, tasteful electric piano and roaring guitars. Followed with the subdued tones of ‘#Sixzeros’ and ‘I’m Not Done With You’ the record as a whole is profoundly thought provoking, and could very well be the older brother of an angst and hate ridden Jimmy Eat World record.

Although this record may have been a little late to the emo-revival party, ‘Passed & Presence’ is a wonderful throwback to emo indie rock at its best. At times it’s a little dewy-eyed, but if you’re looking for something to get your teeth into that isn’t just puppies and sprinkles on the first listen this is the record for you.

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