Review Summary: Catchy, optimistic- and standard- post rock.
Saxon Shore are an American post rock band, meaning you probably know exactly what they sound like. Their songs start off soft and sweet, then get loud and sweet, with soaring guitars and cymbal heavy percussion leading to the inevitable climax. Yes, it's all familiar, yes it's unoriginal, and The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore
probably won't floor you like ( )
or Lift Your Skinny Fists
did the first time you heard them.
However, that doesn't mean it's a bad record at all. True, Saxon Shore do exactly what everyone else does, but they do it quite impressively. The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore
finds the band wisely thieving from the best of their contemporaries. In atmospherics, Explosions In the Sky influences are found all over this record, with optimistic, expansive textures gracing the entire album, only instead of following in Explosion's epic (or pretentious) footsteps, Saxon Shore craft post rock tunes one can sit down and enjoy rather than decide which blocks of time will be devoted to listening to them. This creates an advantage Saxon Shore's interpretation of post rock has over its peers: Saxon Shore are really quite listenable. By eliminating the epic periods of ambience several post rock bands in the wake of Godspeed You! Black Emperor indulge in with the hopes of being "deep", Saxon Shore gets to the point with equal amounts of power and emotion without putting the listener to sleep first. The songs on Exquisite Death
, usually not as gay as their titles would suggest, never wander too far past five minutes, giving the album a good quick interest-holding pace. It helps that Saxon Shore have a tendency to just ***ing groove
every once in a while. Songs like "The Revolution Will Be Streaming" run with an almost jovial bounce, whereas "With a Red Suit You Will Become a Man" shows Saxon Shore going full fledged 80's, with dancey beats and a synth line straight out of Fred XM 44. Refreshingly, Saxon Shore take post rock and make it actually fun
rather than insanely dramatic.
That is, for most of the record they make it fun. The Exquisite Death
begins to stumble when it starts trying to exchange the optimistic tone of the first half with a darker, more clichÃ© sound on the latter half. "A Greatness at the Cost of Goodness" sounds ripped straight from every post rock band's playbook, a similar fate befalling "How The West Was Won On Horseback", only both tracks lack the direction necessary for the point they're trying to convey. Neither track does the album any favors before "The Lame Shall Enter First" shows Saxon Shore actually can be darker sounding and equally as excellent as their lighter stuff. Saxon Shore goes for broke on "The Lame Shall Enter First", with ace results. Complete with chimes, keyboards, and screaming, Saxon Shore saves their strongest climax for last, with enough emotional grit to make even the most jaded post rock enthusiast smile. In the end, The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore
may rip off the big guys too much for its own good- "The Shaping Of A Helpless Joy" sounds like a B-Side from Jaga Jazzist's What We Must
, and "Silence Lends a Face to the Soul" comes straight from Mono- but it has enough flashes of brilliance and just enough optimistic originality to make it a fine post rock record.