Norma Jean is a band with perennial appeal. Although hardcore has changed quite a bit over the last decade, Norma Jean has always managed to strike a careful balance between trendiness and their characteristic blend of raw aggressive and tender emotional works.
That may sound oxymoronic, but 2019’s All Hail shows off the band’s trademark style better than any of their other albums.
One of the songs that exemplifies this is “If [Loss] then [Leader].”
I think that the triumph of Norma Jean is the way that they operate with a casual blend of visionary direction and mastery in practice. Songs like “Funeral Singer” and “Anna” reveal the emotional depths of Norma Jean’s repertoire.
Even their earlier work, though it has significant distance in tone and style from their more recent releases (Meridional marked a shift to darker, heavier sounds), retains a mark of perfectionism blended with practicality.
Of all the songs to pick as an example of Norma Jean’s prowess, I had a hard time settling on “If [Loss] Then [Leader]” with so many alternatives; between All Hail, Polar Similar, and Wrongdoers (and their single “Children of the Dead”), Norma Jean is probably responsible for something like 50% of my listening activity in 2020, and that excludes their earlier work that often features prominently in my playlists.
But I think the thing about “If [Loss] Then Leader]” that makes it my definitive Norma Jean song is that it highlights the effortless way they walk the line between philosophical wanderings and practical raw lyrics. The central theme conveyed in the lyrics “Lies die/Lies resuscitate lies forever” is one that carries in it perhaps the fundamental question of our modern day:
Can we live on falsehood if it gets us what we want?
No. To borrow another lesson from “If [Loss] Then [Leader],” there is a simple result to expedience. “Love is painful, always, and everything else will end.”
It’s a cautionary tale, told in beautiful and haunting lyrics set to music aggressive enough to convey its importance.