Explosions in the Sky
The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place


5.0
classic

Review

by Richard Craig USER (120 Reviews)
May 19th, 2008 | 28 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place...While You Are Listening.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve always wanted to review a post-rock album, but I’ve never really figured out a good way to do it. I hope that on my 50th people will be more forgiving (please?) if I write a bad review, so I have decided to experiment a little. When reviewing, it is important to include whatever emotions the music made you feel, but primarily I try to remain fairly objectionable and detached. This way the review will be more useful to the reader and will apply to more people. Also, if you write your review as if everything in it is a fact rather than just your opinion people tend to argue and dispute your views less. However, with post-rock, which to me is a very emotive genre, and one that can be very ambiguous with its meaning as there are often no lyrics, it is much harder to remain detached. Basically, if you can write good post-rock reviews then I take my hat off to you, for that’s quite a skill. Therefore this will be less of a review, and more of an insight into my personal interpretations of one of my favourite albums of all time.

Like many I first discovered Explosions in the Sky thanks to the movie Friday Night Lights – best £3 I’ve ever spent! Like many I was a fan of the huge soundscapes that perfectly fitted the visual aspect of the film. I’m not sure about how others have reacted, but by the end I was bought to tears, particularly when Billingsley reconciled with his estranged father after losing the final, but mostly because of the beauty and the power of the soundtrack – most of which was provided by Texas natives Explosions in the Sky. A couple of clicks on Sputnikmusic later and I had found out that the best place to start with EitS was this album – ‘The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place’; a couple of days later I had visited the nearest HMV and bought it. A couple of hours after having bought it, I had listened to it and was in tears again.

Those of you who are still reading at this point must now think that I’m a complete pussy, and yeah, reading that back I think the same as you – I am a pussy. Nevertheless, that’s the truth and it doesn’t bother me too much. You see, post-rock is one of those genres that is more about the musicians’ ability to portray emotion and/or situations than to write technically astounding riffs or catchy hooks. This is something that Explosions in the Sky have done perfectly, in my humble opinion, on ‘The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place’. The gentle, interweaving guitar melodies and marching snares and often powerfully percussive drums combine to make a very cinematic sound that, at times, just floors me with its beauty and its power. To me, every song vividly resembles a fond memory in my life, or, failing that, an easily imaginable scene. This is essentially music to listen to just before falling asleep, given its relaxing nature, so to get in the mood, please: take a deep breath and close your eyes…

Now, open them. That is essentially what the opener ‘First Breath After Coma’ is about, except that instead of the ‘protagonist’ merely opening his eyes he is waking from a coma – hence the name. The drums simulate a heartbeat in time with dream-like, hypnotic guitar melodies that intersect each other, and build up to a brilliant climax – the first of several on the album. In this case, I interpret it to be the patient realising the unadulterated pleasure of life, having woken up. While the post-rock template of gentle guitars and climaxes is now a tired stereotype in danger of growing stale, when this was released in 2003 it was relatively new and it sounds fresh even now – it is done that well. It is little wonder that this album is the benchmark for many post-rock bands today – a pinnacle of achievement within the genre. As the texture dramatically changes it is as if the protagonist is being confronted with the scarier, more depressing elements of life. There is plenty of space in the music, which portrays loneliness. Coupled with the tambourine hits which remind me of Christmas bells, it creates an incredibly sad image – lonely at Christmas: as low as you can get. Towards the end it gradually builds up again, expanding on many little riffs and motifs used throughout the piece. It gradually grows more and more distant before fading out and washing away with feedback.

‘The Only Moment We Were Alone’ is the first track that vividly portrays a life event for me, and although it wasn’t entirely happy by any means I still have fond memories of that time and this song represents those memories for me. I was in love with this girl, and we used to hang out in this big alleyway with a lot of kids outside the local music venue getting drunk. Sounds distinctly unromantic doesn’t it? Well yeah, but to me this was perfect. The steady pounding of the bass drum along with the undulating guitar lines represent me walking up to her, mentally preparing to charm her with my wit. Yeah. Again, this passage builds up to a thicker texture and a 3/4 pattern that to me represents the rush of talking to her. The same musical pattern is repeated, only this time it is followed by three guitars interweaving with one another, playing riffs which to me sound like a pair of lovers saying those three all-important words – “I love you”. It is as tender a moment as you will find on ‘TEiNaCDP’. The mood changes and the music becomes more distant before picking up again with a beautiful riff. Just when you think the song is over it changes yet again and again, builds up, this time into a wall of noise. This wall of noise effect to me is the sonic equivalent of the perfect kiss. ‘The Only Moment We Were Alone’ segues through many components flawlessly and beautifully, making it one of the highlights of the album. That coming from such a fan of this ‘TEiNaCDP’, is really saying something about it.

The next track ‘Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean’ is very different indeed – not in method, but in the emotional outcome. There is something very ‘aquatic’ about EitS’s sound (I imagine listening to it while relaxing in one of those water-bed/tank things is awesome) and so the idea of the band telling the story of the Kursk is a very good one indeed. The chiming guitars in the intro seem innocent enough, but also hint at impending danger and how blissfully unaware of their fates the crew are. As the drums come in, playing a fluctuating percussive pattern, the submarine sets sail and though it seems all is fine at first, it soon becomes apparent that it is not. The drums drop out and the guitars sound as if they are crying. This is followed by eight explosion-like timpani strikes, signalling eight devastating hits on the sub. The distant percussion and the water-like guitar lines represent the sub descending down into the ocean’s murky depths. This descent continues until the end of the song, becoming more rapid and frantic until the last note signifies the death of the crew. One of the more obviously cinematic pieces on the album, it is heartbreakingly tragic and very moving.

Immediately following the deaths of the crew of the Kursk is the aptly titled ‘Memorial’. The organs while not prominent represent the church service and the sorrowful guitar line symbolises the mourners slowly walking around the cemetery. As the guitar riffs change (not too dramatically) the bass stays the same – sounding like a slower take on a walking bass line. This again contributes to the image of stately mourners looming around the graveyard. The drums come in with a powerful, more ‘traditional’ beat and the relative tranquillity is displaced as the guitars become more pain-filled, representing an outburst of tears from the mourners. The dynamics theatrically drop soon after, before crescendo-ing even more dramatically. The drums becoming heavier and more powerful and the guitars ascending chromatically, to me, represent the mental anguish and bereavement of the families of the dead. Overall the song is a very sorrowful one and fits in perfectly story-wise after ‘Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean’ and contrasts the blissfully happy ‘Your Hand In Mine’.

The last song on the album is the most famous one, and is also the best. Simply put ‘Your Hand In Mine’ is post-rock perfection. It moves through its sections perfectly and is instantly memorable and its emotional impact is huge. For me, this song represents the happiest day of my life when I went into London for the day with my last girlfriend. Not one part of it specifically, just the whole day. It is amazing how accurately 8:17 can represent the pure joy and bliss that 5 or 6 hours gave me. The song itself is stunningly beautiful, just as I remember her that day and likewise with its/her loving, gentle nature. It gradually builds throughout the whole piece to a soaring riff, which then builds even further getting richer in tone and thicker in texture. Every riff here is perfect and in the right place as is every marching snare pattern and distant timpani pattern that seems to get nearer and nearer. The highlight of the piece, and even the whole album, lasts for about 30 seconds and comes at the 6 minutes mark. For those of you who own this album give that a listen: this is the bit that will reduce me to tears of happiness 9 times out of 10. The beauty continues for another 2 minutes ever-expanding on existing motifs and refrains used throughout the song. All too soon though, it is over. Nevertheless it is perfect.

In fact, for me, the whole album is pretty much perfect. It is simple, yet it is so very effective. Post-rock is about thoughts and feelings and that is what ‘The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place’ is all about. Each piece is bursting with emotion, and intentionally or not, represents specific situations to me. After every listen I always have a massive smile on my face and my face is stained with tears and I know that this will be the case for many. However, I also know that this will not be the case for many, and that’s okay. Just because a piece of music is perfection for one, it doesn’t mean that it will be perfect for someone else. Music is what you make of it. The rich tone of the album, combined with its awesome beauty and power reminds me that the earth is not a cold dead place…while you are listening.



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user ratings (2134)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
craigy2
May 19th 2008


551 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

hey, sorry this is very essay like and overly long. as the little disclaimer points out it is more of an exploration of my interpretation of this album rather than a review, so please don't get too hung up on that, just try and enjoy it. cheers.

BallsToTheWall
May 19th 2008


44484 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is the album that got me into post rock although Takk was my first. In short, album rules. Review is pretty long indeed, but good nonetheless.

Digging: Tove Lo - Queen of the Clouds

Serpento
May 19th 2008


2351 Comments


Good review, though lengthy and the disclaimer's kinda...odd. It seems like the review would function as both fine without you mentioning it was more an introspection.

Never liked this album much.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 19th 2008


15741 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Not a 5. Chill album, though.

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

jimay333
May 19th 2008


433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. Even better album. "First Breath After Coma" - with an 'a'. Fourth paragraph.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
May 20th 2008


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album grew off me a bit. It's still incredible when I am in the mood to listen to it.

Golgoroth
October 20th 2008


1084 Comments


I'm just listening now and I've decided I NEED THIS. I didn't think I'd like post-rock either.

Distance
October 20th 2008


113 Comments


"All of a Sudden I miss everyone" and "How Strange, Innocence" are better albums in my opinion.

Golgoroth
October 20th 2008


1084 Comments


Yeah, I like what I've heard of How Strange too, but I like this a little better.

aparker621
June 1st 2009


4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I agree with every gushing word of this review. 5's all around. "The only moment.." has the strange ability i've found to bring incredibly vivid life-events and images into peoples lives... or rather everyone ive talked to that has listened to it

I bought Fri Nigh Lights just to hear Eits used in it. The whole ending where they play "your hand in mine" just brings me to tears.



aparker621
June 1st 2009


4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

If you liked EitS's other albums more, it is likely that you prefer dissonance in your music.

"All of a Sudden" was a much more dissonant album. It used chaos and dischordance to create beauty, whereas on "The Earth" nearly ever chord played on the album is a major or minor. This is why "the earth" to some people might sound more shallow and too happy (basically). But some people love it.

Society Sellout
September 19th 2009


292 Comments


Loved the review. Emotion is a huge part of music and to review music entirely objectively is to miss the point entirely.

I remember watching Friday Night Lights and thinking to myself "This music is totally making me love this movie 100x more than I would without it". I had assumed the music had been orchestrated for the movie but was happy when I finally decided to look up this band and made the connection. Incredible music.

qwe2
September 19th 2009


377 Comments


so many people give this album shit at the moment. it's like the cool thing to hate eits

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 19th 2009


17215 Comments


seriously. i think it's just backlash for their being so many bands emulating them recently.

Digging: Inigo Kennedy - Vaudeville

qwe2
September 19th 2009


377 Comments


yeah probably. none of them have really topped this album

Prophet178
September 19th 2009


6397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Cause most of them are doing it better.

qwe2
September 19th 2009


377 Comments


nawt really. mono's newest is good though

Prophet178
September 19th 2009


6397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Margins, iLiKETRAiNS, and Kyte all had debuts better than this that came out this year. New Mono and Do Make Say Think are incredible too.

It seems like a lot of people have a strong emotional attachment to this album though, probably because it was their first post-rock album, which I can respect, but in my opinion, it doesn't stack up to some of the other great releases in the past couple years.

It would be cool to see them come out with a new release sometime soon.

qwe2
September 19th 2009


377 Comments


kyte's debut was not better than this, and you cant compare DMST to EITS because it's completely different styles. thats what i hate about post rock, a band is instrumental, it's shoved into the post-rock category.

i have a strong emotional attachment to this album because this album is excellent at provoking emotion in people. my first post-rock album was ( ) which is not as good as this

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 19th 2009


17215 Comments


before "Your Hand In Mine" the word perfect didn't exist.



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