Upon first (and second and third and fourth) listens of “Misadventures”, three things are clear: the members of Pierce the Veil poured their hearts and souls into the album, lead vocalist Vic Fuentes is a massively talented lyricist with figurative language skills that could make anyone jealous, and this album shows more of a range of what they can do as musicians.
Right off the bat, you can see this range with the lead riff on “Dive In”, although it’s kind of strange as a leading track. Fuentes has said that if someone had no idea who Pierce the Veil was, to just show them this song and they’d get it. To some degree, that’s true.
The lyrics speak about “paycheck musicians”, who have lost all the passion for their craft and dread getting up on stage each night. From the beginning of the song, Fuentes pulls no punches with lyrics such as “Now I wanna be the tattoo ink that swims/down through the needle in your skin/and I wish I was poisonous…” in just the first verse and, in the bridge, screaming “kill me if I end up like… YOU!”
In a track-by-track explanation, Fuentes continues by saying,
We’re the kind of the band who try to keep everything very grassroots between our families and friends. When people try to belittle that vibe or taint that beautiful thing about music, it brings a lot of anger and frustration … We’ve toured with people who seem to have lost it and just do it for money … I don’t want to be around that, and it really brings me down.
Once you get past the oddity of the opening riff, you can see what Fuentes is talking about from the thrum of the bass to the pounding and crashing of the drums to the hint of the piano to the frenetic and sometimes eerie guitar to the clapping that punctuates the breakdown. Pierce the Veil effortlessly combines elements of hardcore with metal and even a bit of classical with the piano and measured vocals to create a sound that is uniquely them.
Other lyrics definitely worth your time include: “Hang the stars who pulled the pin out of my heart/and just because you're screaming for my attention/does not mean I will waste my time/so hold your breath and swim under the ice…”
Track two, “Texas is Forever”, was among three teaser singles released to the public (“The Divine Zero” and “Circles” being the others) and, along with “Circles”, was a song that became an instant favorite, to the point that, on this reviewer’s part, they were both streamed ad nauseam until the release. “Texas is Forever” is basically an eargasm for any fan of punk music: it starts off with foreboding guitar, deep bass licks from bassist Jaime Preciado, leads into fast and furious guitar, drums, and bass, and finally a screamed “here we are!” and after the first verse, a screamed “Why?!”
Says Fuentes when asked what the song is about:
Lyrically, it closes the book on a topic I’ve been singing about for the last three records. It’s about a relationship that kept going and had a lot of ups and downs. We were both able to stop thinking about it and have a mutual respect for each other’s lives. That was the end of it, which is nice.
But by far, the best part of “Texas” is when it slows down and from that first crash cymbal hit, you know the song’s building to something.
The drums later switch to the deeper tone of the ride cymbal and lead guitarist Perry intones a wandering guitar riff that is immediately captivating. Then the song slowly speeds back up with a down tuned bass riff and the building of a scream until the word “don’t” rings in the listener's ear drums. A chunky bass riff follows and then the words “chase”, “your”, and lastly “NIGHTMARES!” all with the backdrop of Perry’s guitar. Fuentes brings the song back up to its fast pace as he sings “here we are…”
His way with words is on full display in this song with lyrics like “Here we are.../crashing once again/into the center of your moonlit face/our caved in ribs/your tears they fall/our lips are locked in lemon groves/and I can never let them grow/on the side of the road/so take a deep breath and chase it with mine/your southern hospitality won't mind…”
“The Divine Zero”, track three, was the first teaser single released for the album and is the only one that fans have had a year to sit with. Most fans were concerned upon first listen because of the multitude of references to depression (“the serotonin’s gone…”) and self-injury (“…been counting the stars and scars/how I’m becoming a work of art…” and “The whispered words ‘You’d better hide the bullets’/you stayed on the phone and talked to me day and night/trigger my nightmare once again/and it’s fucking loaded in hand/and we’ll let the fire rage…”) contained in the lyrics. It received a mixed crowd reaction when it first debuted, as this reviewer suspects this album will have as well. It's always a gamble for a band when they change or evolve their sound.
Despite the worry over the content, the blunt honesty always present in Pierce the Veil’s lyrics is admirable. When this reviewer first heard this song, the first reaction was how well constructed the drums, bass, and guitar were and how much the band's sound had evolved.
“Floral and Fading”, track four, was the first “new” (as in, unheard before the stream) song that stuck in this reviewer’s head upon first listen. According to Fuentes, the song is about “the public tormenting [his] girlfriend… “ and how:
she’s the nicest person. She didn’t know how to handle it. There were times when she’d call me crying because people were saying all of these horrible things about her and making fucked up Instagram photos and Photoshopping all of this crazy shit about her … it really pissed me off that people were acting like that towards her. I sort of wrote it telling her that if it was just her and I on a different planet, I would be happy with that…
This is actually a huge problem for bands in the alternative music scene. It's also one this reviewer has never understood and can't believe someone had to come out and say that this is a messed up thing to do to someone. You'd think that would be common sense, especially if you claim to be even a casual fan of a band.
Commentary aside, songs always sound better when the listener can tell that the subject matter is important to the vocalist/songwriter and that’s part of why this song works so well. “Floral and Fading” is the song that sounds the least like Pierce the Veil… and it works for them very well. This song showcases their first experimentation with a different sound as it starts with a distorted vocal and drums from the respective Fuentes brothers and segues into a slower composition that is underscored heavily by Preciado’s bass and some piano.
It’s also the first song where vocalist Fuentes experiments with changing his singing tone to something more resembling his natural voice, which is actually very deep. It’s a smart choice for such a personal song. There are other vocal choices that stand out as well in the lyrics: “And I’m just a stupid motherfucker who can’t figure it out…”.
The title of track five, “Phantom Power and Ludicrous Speed”, stirred images of Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet and shouts of “prepare for ludicrous speed!” in 1987’s “Spaceballs”. Pierce The Veil has been known to scatter multiple 90s (or near 90s in this case) references in their music and this song is no different. The song, however, is definitely not a humorous song. Fuentes has said it’s about the pressure he felt while writing this album.
It follows that the lyrics are correspondingly dark: “I cried and listened to the rain in a rental car/one day somebody’s gonna go and get pushed to far/but now I don't know what to say/shall I deny my lungs their breathing rights?”
Again, this is another song where vocalist Fuentes’ choices to accentuate certain words is excellent. The ending words of “is cold” are spoken rather than sung and it gives a beautiful finality to the song, especially one as dark as this one.
“Circles”, track six, is a well-written, heart-rending tale of a fictional couple who attended the fateful Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan Theater in Paris. This was the last of the teaser singles released and the way Fuentes utilized his lower vocal range, as if he was personifying his main character in the song (the first word in the song is “listen”), captivated this reviewer’s attention from that first second. The opening riff, is by far this reviewer’s favorite on the record, with the riff on “Bedless” coming in a close second.
Not only does the music match the desperation echoed in the song, it also manages to evoke a sense of longing. “Circles” also has some of this reviewer’s favorite descriptive writing ever: “Listen, do you hear my heart beat thump over the monitors? You pretend to close your eyes, don't breathe in pieces of candy and leaks of light, paint the floor 'round me, then without hesitating, you took my hand and then we both started running…”
“Misadventures’” next track, “Today I Saw The Whole World” is another favorite as Perry’s guitar takes the listener on an aural odyssey to the anguished vocals on the first verse: “Baby, pour over/tell me, are we concrete?/what would you do without my perfect company/to your undressed spine?/And I can hear you drag behind my car by your broken legs/swallowing stitches in her sleep as she/stole my only view, may I never blink…”
The song is about how a girl Fuentes deeply cared about but wasn’t “exclusive” with essentially cheated on him with one of his friends while the band was on tour. From the well-balanced screams of “zero friends!” to the gorgeously worked in backing vocals that are another Pierce the Veil signature, it’s hard not to like “Today”.
“Gold Medal Ribbon”, track seven, is far and away one of the standout tracks, if not the standout track, outside of the singles. Every element of it is absolutely breathtaking and, a word of warning, it will deliver a gut punch every time. According to Fuentes, it's about:
...a friend that passed away. She was my first girlfriend. She passed during the making of this record. It was hard because she was the first person I ever fell in love with and said those words to. It’s a song for her, letting her know I still think about her. ‘Gold Medal Ribbon’ was her favorite ice cream flavor. We used to go get ice cream together all of the time in high school.
You can hear how much the woman in question meant to him not only in the lyrics but in the emotion he puts into the vocals and how the music only accents this. From the opening “Are you up there?” to the closing “I’m always listening, I swear, I swear, I swear” to the injection of memories he shared with this girl, the song just cuts right to the bone. Perry’s wistful and at times sorrowful guitar, the haunting piano/synths that accompany it, and the just punchy enough drums complete this one-two punch of emotion and it just hurts so good.
“Bedless”, track eight, has one of the best and most gorgeous opening guitar riffs on the record. This reviewer is unsure how he does it, but Perry has this way of evoking the exact emotion Fuentes is going for with the lyrics and it makes their music pure ear candy, especially on this song.
Fuentes said this song is about:
a relationship that I had. It was one of those things that kept dragging on for a real long time. Neither of us ever said anything about what we were together. It went on for years between us. We were super good friends, and we shared so many amazing experiences, but it never really went anywhere. It’s an apology for her basically saying, ‘I never meant to waste your time, but I still loved what we had together.'
The lyrics are equally as stunning as the guitar riff as they begin:
“Surf to me/ Whatever you want/And whenever breezing through/Keep tearing my world apart/As we lost the light/Wet cash on the bar/She fell a victim to a violent wave/And died on the jagged rocks…”
And towards the end there is this gem: “These stars defy love, so I close my eyes/and sleep inside your worn in bed/and it won’t be long till' we drop this match/when I burn to your fingertips you can throw what’s left…”
The opening riff is guaranteed to keep listeners coming back to this song again and again and the spellbinding nature of the rest of the music and the lyrics/vocal performance will keep them there.
There’s also an absolutely lovely vocal choice on the “oh” in the line “oh I hope you don't regret me…”.
“Sambuka”, funny enough, IS a reference to the alcoholic drink of the same name. Sambuca, the beverage, is an Italian liqueur that’s made of a mixture of pure alcohol and essential oils from star anise, elderflowers, anise, licorice, and other spices.
The song title is spelled like that because apparently that’s how Fuentes thought it was spelled, something he laughs about in the track-by-track. It’s about making a long distance relationship work while on tour and how frustrating that can be for all parties involved. It’s not a bad song, but it’s hard to get into.
All the elements are there for it to be another banger: from the screams to the speed demon drums and the distinct vocal changes, but the only thing that really stands out to this reviewer is the short breakdown where the frustration of the subject reaches a fever pitch: “Hello, welcome to Southern California/now go back home!” It’s worth listening to to get a feel for the album as a whole, but not a song to go back to.
The band may be starting a trend with their ending tracks: songs that have happy sounding openers, but are about dark subjects. The closer on 2012’s “Collide With The Sky”, “Hold On Til May” was the originator and now, 2016’s “Song For Isabelle”, the closer on “Misadventures”, may be following in the same pattern. It’s a pattern this reviewer highly approves of as it’s a nice palate cleanser after the moody emotional rollercoaster that is “Misadventures”.
It starts with a major key guitar riff and a light touch from the drums while still including a hardcore punch with the pulsing kicks from the bass drum. The songs is about an actual girl named Isabelle that would hang out at Pierce the Veil shows and, according to Fuentes,
…had become really depressed and told me she couldn’t understand why people treated each other the way they do. She just couldn’t handle that concept of people treating each other so badly all over the world. It tore her apart. I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this. She told me she wouldn’t be here in a year. She thought she would end her life because she couldn’t take what was going on out there. It blew my mind. Here was this pretty girl who seemed to be fine, but she had all of these internal struggles going on that she just couldn’t handle. For a year, I was wondering if she was okay. It was crazy. It consumed me for a while. I eventually found out that she was fine and she pulled through. Hopefully she found something or someone to show her the joy in life.
The spoken word outro of “Back in the days when I was young/I’m not a kid anymore/But some days I sit and wish I was a kid again…” is a perfect way to end the album as it captures the feeling of melancholy but desire to move forward with life that encapsulates “Misadventures”. And, once again, the closing guitar riff matches this emotion perfectly.