7 Seconds’ ninth proper full-length record, and first in nearly a decade, Leave A Light On is a testament to this band’s long and vibrant career. On the surface, this is another hardcore punk record like its two predecessors Good To Go and Take It Back, Take It On, Take It Over, but underneath the surface the melody and structure that drives this record has as much in common with the band’s middle, more melodic period as it does with their hardcore beginnings.
To fully appreciate the depths of Leave A Light On, one needs to understand the musical history and legacy of 7 Seconds 34 year long career. The band was formed in 1979 (according to their Facebook page) by brothers Kevin Seconds (vocals, guitar) and Steve Youth (bass). By the release of their proper full-length debut The Crew, they were joined by Troy Mowat on drums. The trio of Seconds, Youth, and Mowat would become the heart and soul of the group and remain (mostly) constant members of the band. The first era of 7 Seconds’ music was the early hardcore years which started in 1979 and ended in 1986 which saw the release of the band’s last hardcore record (though it was certainly a transitional album) New Wind and the release of their fist more melodic, emo-y, U2-esque record, the Praise EP. Praise was the first release to include Bobby Adams on guitar; and it was this lineup that would be feature on nearly every 7 Seconds’ release going forward (with the notable exceptions being the Soulforce Revolution and The Music, The Message albums). During this middle period the band’s music developed and changed from record to record with Praise and 1988’s Ourselves being very U2-esque, 1989’s Soulforce Revolution had an early indie rock/pop punk vibe to it, 1993’s Out the Shizzy had a very heavy guitar driven, almost grungy sound, and 1995’s The Music, The Message was a return to a more youthful energy with an almost pop punk sound (note: describing Soulforce Revolution and The Music, The Message as pop punk is in a for-lack-of-a-better-word kind of way; neither record sounds anything like the Ramones but both are poppy and punky, hence my referring to them as pop punk). In 1999 the band returned to their hardcore sound, beginning the third era of their musical career with the release of Good To Go followed by 2005’s Take It Back, Take It On, Take It Over. While hardcore records, both held tightly on to melody and harmony resulting in a melodic hardcore vide ala Dag Nasty and Bad Religion.
Fast-forward nine years to the release of Leave A Light On which opens with two straight-up, blistering hardcore punk numbers “Exceptional” and “Upgrade Everything.” The record’s third track, “Slogan On A Shirt” moves away from the straight forward hardcore of The Crew, to a sing-along oi-influenced, big chorus sound (not too far removed from something like “Step Down” by Sick Of It All). Next up is the anthem “I Have Faith In You” followed by the autobiographical “30 Years (And We’re Still Going Wrong),” both songs strong melodic hardcore numbers. The brilliance of Leave A Light On then truly kicks in with the utterly amazing title track, a song that harkens back to the Praise and Ourselves releases. “Empty Spots” is an ode to the power of music while “Your Hate Mentality” is the first overtly political song of the record with “My Aim Is You” shining as another great off-kilter 7 Seconds love song and “Rage Quit” an expression of personal anger; all four sonically falling into the melodic hardcore bucket. The record begins to round out with the very Walk Together, Rock Together-esque “Heads Are Bound To Roll” which is followed by the other Praise/Ourselves-esque track, “Standing By Yourself.” The album closes with the hardcore numbers “Someday, Some Way” and “Simple Or Absolute.”
Leave A Light On truly captures everything great about 7 Seconds while also standing out as the band’s best work in over 20 years. This record is hopeful and powerful, poignant and funny, earnest and light-hearted, all while being catchy and melodic, razor sharp and touching, and blistering and melodious. Aside from being a musical masterpiece, this record also brings back the optimistic, positive, and promising attitude of those early years. On a personal note, I haven’t connected with a 7 Secords record this strongly since I first discovered the band’s 1985 magnum opus Walk Together, Rock Together. This is the 7 Seconds record that I have been waiting for for over two decades, and boy was it worth the wait.