Album Review: The Non-Commissioned Officers – Make-out With Violence [Expanded Edition]

the non-commissioned officers, non-comms

In my review for The Non-Commissioned Officers’ recently released sophomore LP, Money Looking For Thieves, I couldn’t help but mention their excellent debut album, Make-Out With Violence, and the story behind it. How the band had formed to score the coming-of-age zombie film Make-out With Violence, how the “band” became a means of raising money for the film’s completion, and how by the end of production they’d turned into a full-fledged act. Until recently, that album and film were both available only in physical format, but now both are readily available online and the double-disc soundtrack to Make-out With Violence has been expanded from an already impressive 44 tracks to an even 50.

Make-out With Violence is an astounding collection of music, awe-inspiring in its scope. Tracks range from beautifully moody scoring to powerful and passionate pop rock, and touch on a multitude of genres in between. Score and singles merge and intermingle over the two-disc, two-hour journey – longer than the actual film. Non-Comms’ songwriter Jordan Lehning is credited with the composition of all the music, and the bulk of the tracks are performed by the band, while a handful of others feature alternate performers, guest vocalists, and some cast members from the film. The album is rife with dark guitars, eerie synths, and uplifting rock balladeering that summons the ghost of Joy Division with cues from Angelo Badalamenti, Michael Andrews, and Steve Reich, to name a few.

The most stand-out track on the album is “Flour”, a raw and echoing love song. The track’s powerful lyrics, layered backing melodies, and an unforgettable guitar hook more than earn it “must-listen” status. When I say that this is a great song, I mean that it is a great song. It’s the kind of song that passionate songwriters wait their whole lives to write. Though “Flour” is the top of the heap, it’s joined by many other worthy tracks. Be sure to check out “Frozen Tongue”, “You Don’t Even Know Her”, and “Cinderella” by The Non-Comms, as well as the cover of Brian Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire” sung by Leah High, and Lehning’s score including the gorgeous “Addy’s Piano Nocturne No. 1” and the dark synth jam “Addy Harmonics/Beet Beat”.

New to the expanded digital edition are six tracks, three on each “disc” as they’re split up on iTunes. Disc 1 features songs cut from the film due to being part of deleted scenes, all Non-Commissioned Officers tracks. “Dry Country Boy” features vocals by Jasmin Kaset and is dreamy, beat-heavy synth rock that could’ve easily found a home on the band’s latest album. “Wet Vines (That Horse Flew Away)” is an eerie dirge featuring vocals by Make-out With Violence actress and costume designer Lauren Sandidge, who provided vocals on one of the album’s previous tracks. “Where Did I Go?” builds from a simple acoustic track into a spacey, fully-layered rock song with hints of classic U2. Disc 2 features two chiptunes Non-Comms covers by Kevin Doyle from an aborted 8-bit EP called She 8 The Rat, which was to coincide with a flash game on the film’s website. Finally, there’s “Honest Fool”, performed by Leah High. This B-side has an odd genesis: It’s an alternate musical cue for the scene that feature’s “St. Elmo’s Fire”. Securing the worldwide rights to the original track proved too costly, so it’s “Honest Fool” that appears in the international home video version of the film instead. Musically, it’s like a version of the original track from a mirror dimension.

Both the expanded album and the film, Make-out With Violence are now available as digital releases on iTunes and Amazon.  More information about both can be found on the film’s website, and check out some music-isolated scenes from the film over at Cluster 1.


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