The ringside witnesses to the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease will appreciate the empathy, noble intentions, and sincerity rife throughout the new single from Elsewhere, “The Pledge.” The Boston-based band is an indie mainstay with a bevy of past releases and their long-standing chemistry has fueled their international notoriety. You can hear their experience from first note to last. Front man and guitarist Michael Aroian’s lyrics are a mixed bag. He has a penchant for unexpected rhymes rather than rote predictable payoffs but there’s moments in the lyric when his need for a particular rhyme mars the natural feel all songwriters reach for. The opening verse illustrates these traits.
A saving grace for the words is Aroian’s ability to elevate them through his phrasing. He maintains the structuring he adopts for the first verses, building off repeating the initial phrase “I’m forgetting”, throughout the song with variations. It stages things nicely without seeming too premeditated. Listeners will key in on the obvious ambition driving this track and there are evocative turns of phrase scattered throughout the lyric, but there are lines a little too prosaic for serving such ends.
The musical arrangement is dramatic without ever sounding heavy-handed. The airy pop-tinged melodicism of the early verses seamlessly segues into heavy rock riffing without striking listeners as incongruous. Aroian’s versatility as a guitarist helps make this possible, but the rhythm section of bassist Kevin “Thundersnow” Swaluk and drummer Adam Soucy are equally flexible. The long-standing chemistry mentioned in the first paragraph is in full evidence during the instrumental breaks.
Aroian’s voice possesses unusual tonal qualities separating him from the pack. He has a tight grasp on the lighter and heavier sections of the song and his phrasing skills mentioned earlier in the review make an impact on each line. It is a credit to his interpretive powers that Aroian can take an imperfect lyric and work magic, but the bulk of the song finds its intended targets with listeners. Some will wish it might have been more poetic.
The song’s video provides spot-on visual accompaniment. Images of elderly men and women living with Alzheimer’s are interspersed with moodily lit performance footage, news articles about advances and setbacks in Alzheimer’s research, and the lyrics. It may sound as if they are biting off more than chew and the video is a likely jumbled mess, but it is not the case. The video for “The Pledge” has as much polish as the song itself. Kudos to Elsewhere for contributing such a heartfelt piece to help raise money for Alzheimer’s.