For a lot of upper-middle-class kids like myself, a back-to-school clothes shopping trip was the one chance a year I had to change or cement my look. On a sweltering August day, I’d find myself standing in a Pac Sun, trying to find a pair of jeans that fit and a novelty t-shirt that was suitably ridiculous. (Yes, my hair was spiked, yes, I probably was wearing one of these and yes, I realize that I was terrible.)
Eventually, my wardrobe shifted to being almost entirely made of band tees (and ill-fitting jeans) and my parents decided that, rather than subjecting themselves to Mall Hell, every time I went to a concert they would just give me a twenty dollar bill for yet another shirt. And then, once a year, Warped Tour would come through town and that one twenty dollar bill would become several twenty dollar bills. Merch booths are the only back to school store that an aspiring punk rocker needs.
The summer after my sophomore year of high school, fresh off their release of What It Is to Burn—essentially the mission statement for mid-aughts screamo—Finch was one of the bands that I was most excited to see at Warped. My friends and I were totally obsessed with that record—we had formed a band with the goal of being little more than an aspirational Finch rip-off—and a Finch shirt was on my target acquisition list for that year’s Warped shopping spree.
For years I wore that Finch shirt regularly, until it was shrunken and threadbare and past the point of use. I certainly got my (parents’) twenty dollars’ worth out of it. Then a mildly predictable thing happened: Finch didn’t release another album until 2005’s Say Hello to Sunshine and when that album arrived, sounding very little like What It Is to Burn, I hated it. In an era defined by my CD-collection, I didn’t even buy a copy for myself (or ask for one as a gift). I listened to it once at a friends’ house and decided that I never needed to hear it again. My love affair with Finch was over.
Several years ago, a friend of mine penned a fairly compelling defense of Say Hello to Sunshine but even that wasn’t enough to make me truly appreciate Sunshine. Recently, as I’ve been re-reading some old books, I’ve also been digging into some of the albums that I missed or didn’t much appreciate around the time of their release. I even made a point of listening to Sunshine again and here’s the thing: I still didn’t like it all that much. But it was a good deal better than the unlistenable mess I remembered it to be.
More surprising than that was how much I enjoyed album opener “Insomniatic Meat”, a song that I only remembered by virtue of its weirdly delivered opening line of “Oh my god, I think I’m blind.” That line remains awkward but the balance of the song is well ahead of its time, presaging a post-hardcore sound that wouldn’t be popular for another few years and culminating in an excellent breakdown (“This is the worst thing that you have ever done!”) that has brought me back several times over the last couple of weeks.
Say Hello to Sunshine wasn’t what I wanted from Finch as a teenager and it’s not even necessarily what I’d want from them now as I’m in my thirties. But it is a better record than I gave it credit for and “Insomniatic Meat”, terrible title aside, is a banger.