Review Summary: Don't listen to the haters. It's almost worth the gallons of ballwashing saliva that have been shamelessly slathered onto it.
Six long years have passed since the release of Circle Takes the Square’s landmark As the Roots Undo
, a truly wondrous event in the history of human civilization. Fifty years from now, chroniclers of this recently-bygone first decade of the new millennium will look back on this record as one of the defining moments of the age. A whole generation of white East Coast scenesters, decked out in their girl jeans and white belts, swinging their arms in the pit like epileptic Tourrete’s victims, now found a spokesman in Drew Speziale. They flocked to all of Circle Takes the Square’s small-venue shows in droves so that they could witness the band’s hyperemotional performances firsthand. The Staff of Sputnikmusic.com, the greatest critical minds of their time, instantly recognized As the Roots Undo
as a classic. Now that the decade has drawn to a close, they have demonstrated their unmatched wisdom by enshrining the album as the third best of the last ten years
When listening to As the Roots Undo
, one is immediately struck by the musical proficiency and intricate instrumental layering exhibited on each and every track. Bartok could only dream of such compositional mastery; Stravinsky’s modification and artificial elongation of the oboe and English horn in The Rite of Spring
seem amateur by comparison. The sagely Alex Silveri was thus absolutely justified when he wrote that “Every instrument [on As the Roots Undo
] is stretched to its limits, churning out riffs and beats with a sort of reckless abandonment, reveling in their interwoven fragments of insanity and beauty.” Truer words have never been written. Circle Takes the Square stitches together these fragments into a beautiful and majestic, if “ill-fated,” tapestry. The music is also so frantic and frenzied! All the sudden shifts in tempo and time signature really help you feel the emotional desperation, too. The drums barely manage to keep up with the songs’ metric succession. And don’t think for a minute that the members of Circle Takes the Square are technically incompetent. It’s all part of the band’s ingenious auditory manipulation. Don’t listen to critics; they either just haven’t been initiated yet or they’re simply not open-minded enough to understand As the Roots Undo
’s emotional profundity. This is the ultimate “grower” album, people. Even though it sounds like intolerable shi
t at first, after repeated relistening and constant reassurances from the Sputnik fanbase that you’ll eventually rate it a 5, the cumulative brain damage you suffer will allow you to hear the album’s true beauty.
Not only the instruments contribute to the album’s depth; the dueling vocals of Drew Speziale and Kathy Coppola also play their part. They add immeasurably to the record’s dynamics and textural variation. Kathy brings the attack voice, while Drew provides the elder daemon voice. Their back-and-forth vocal interplay makes for an exciting listening experience. The fact that their voices aren’t the most perfect, that Drew’s voice quivers and whimpers during the clean sections, doesn’t make As the Roots Undo
any less enjoyable. It only means that they’re more sincere and emotionally authentic. Circle Takes the Square are loyal followers of the lo-fi ethic. The rougher and sloppier everything sounds, the more it just proves that the band is passionate. As the Roots Undo
’s unpolished sound merely makes the album punk as fawk. Still, as the illustrious critic John Hanson observes in a brilliant bit of insight, “instead of becoming shrieky or falling into unintelligible screaming ala many of their contemporaries, Drew and Kathy remain totally recognizable throughout all of the shouting, screaming, voice cracks.” This allows the band’s incredible lyrics to shine through the chaotic instrumentation.
Speaking of the lyrics, Drew Speziale’s writing on As the Roots Undo
is “pure poetry,” as the peerless Hanson has put it, the stuff of great literature. Indeed, such wordsmithery as is displayed on this album can only be compared to the writings of those legendary lyricists of old -- to a Sappho or a Pindar, to a young Goethe or Bruce Dickinson. The lyrics abound with inventive rhyme schemes and complex stanzaic structure. Truly wild
metaphors, savage and untamed, animate every verse, keeping the album’s “picture plain” from being a dull “central neutral grey, this world’s this worst-case color scheme.” All these poetic techniques Speziale employs to maximum effect, squeezing every last fluid ounce of raw emotion
out of each word, nay, each syllable, drenching the listener in tangy bathos. Nothing could be removed or altered, not a single word omitted, without detracting from the poetic perfection of the record. So thorough was Speziale in writing the lyrics to As the Roots Undo
that he anticipates potential criticisms and tries to prevent any attempt to submit his lyrics to real analytical scrutiny: “Nothing's so puerile as meter and rhyme when you can't see the ground from that ledge and this perch is so far, far from the nest.
” And who cannot relate to the following sentiments, so universal in their emotional import? “Bored as fuck with this street corner-cover. Study of a face in a figure. Surveying this language as a game surveillance of this language as the plague. The dimension of persistence condemns
All in all, these elements combine to make As the Roots Undo
a modern emo masterpiece, almost worth the gallons of ballwashing saliva that have been shamelessly slathered onto it. Don’t be misled by all the negative publicity the album has received during the recent slew of mean-spirited reviews that have been leveled at it. For as another great representative of the Sputnik Staff, Adam Downer, wrote on July 30th
, 2008, “[L]ook, this album rules and everyone knows it, except kattunlover. [Y]ou dont want to be gay like him, do you?”