Review Summary: The soundtrack to every existential crisis you've ever felt.
What is it that really makes an album a "classic"? What pushes music over the boundary from being just an enjoyable listening experience to something deeper and far more meaningful? I'm sure people consider albums "classic" for an enormous variety of reasons. There are landmark albums of such undeniable and important influence that it's impossible to cast them aside when discussing "classics". There are albums with such virtuous musicianship or incredible and profound song-writing that listeners have to concede that what they are hearing might just be "classic". Even more than this, there are albums that might relate to an important part of a persons life, whether it be nostalgia drenched memories of listening to the album in your youth and falling in love with music, or it being the album that helped you get over that one
girl, or an album you listened to when you got high for the first time and you really understood what was going on, man. Call it a ridiculous cliché if you want, but for me an album has to really... transcend music to become one of my true favourites. There is Converge
's widely acclaimed Jane Doe
which for me is the soundtrack to beating someone who really deserves it half to death; an awful, obscene vengeance which swallows me with guilt and makes me feel far worse than I did before until at the end, when they apologise for everything. Then there is the debut album of Palehorse
; Gee That Ain't Swell
, which makes me feel like I'm sitting alone in some long-dead friend or relative's house, poring over faded photographs, reflecting sadly on near-forgotten memories, remembering and pining for the old days to be back again, in vain. When it's over I put everything away and leave, never to return. But all of this irrelevant nonsense aside, the thing which I'm sure you're really interested in if you've read this far is: what about this album?
City of Caterpillar
were born from the impossibly perfect marriage of emo and post-rock. They've got everything you want to hear from this style of music, from thoughtful, brooding minimalist passages or subdued and melancholic chord progressions to swirling, glorious crescendos and soaring, violent emotional upheavals, angst ridden lyrics with poetic inflections and obscure references. Every note, every moment of sound is so profoundly deliberate and intentional, whether it be reflective build-up or intense, emotional chaos, each high and each low is perfectly planned out and lasts just the right amount of time. Even the production, which can sound sup-par at times mirrors the hesitant emotion that City of Caterpillar
is trying to convey. City of Caterpillar
is essentially the soundtrack to every existential crisis you've ever felt, every second you've wondered "what's the point?", every time you've cursed our supposed God for his continued indifference, every time you've just wanted to curl up in the foetal position and close your eyes and just scream until it all goes away. The long, mourning passages are every time you've been consumed by anticipation or worry, wishing for what you are waiting for to arrive when it never seems to. The emotional explosions are everything you've been anticipating, they are the moments that pass you by so quickly, that come and go almost unexpectedly, the moments that never seem to go the way you planned. City of Caterpillar
are considerably more post-rock influenced than a lot of their contemporaries, and they are clearly unashamed of it. Indeed, towards the end of Minute-Hour-Day-Week-Month-Year-(The Faiths In My Chest)
there is a sampled spoken passage from a man with strikingly similar world views to our esteemed friend and colleague Blaise Bailey Finnegan III. This nod to Godspeed is clearly deliberate, and by executing it like this, almost like a child copying it's father, it fits in perfectly with the feeling of the rest of the album.
While all of the songs are excellent in their own right, City of Caterpillar
's formula is best exemplified in the song A Little Change Could Go a Long Ways
. Beginning with a simple, pensive guitar line that is gradually joined by the entire rhythm section before morphing into a dejected tremolo picked line, increasing in tempo slowly but surely as both guitars intertwine flawlessly and the roll on the drums intensifies before ascending gracefully to a heartfelt flourish, only to seemingly play it all again backwards; the guitars decrease in tempo and dynamics as the rhythm section fades away and stops playing, leaving the the lone guitar to perform one final soliloquy before the glorious ending crescendo.
One complaint that might fairly be expressed about City of Caterpillar
is the vocals, and it's true; vocalist Brandon Evans is sloppy, awkward and generally a below average singer. He stutters, mumbles or yelps his way through every vocal passage with all the charisma of a used cigarette. In any other genre of music the vocals would probably be universally considered terrible, but this is emo. Let's face it, any god damned idiot can scream about some ridiculous garbage and call it "emotion". But it is the trepidation, the hesitancy, the desperation in his voice, the fact that he sounds so... afraid to tell us how he feels, and so ashamed of his feelings, this is the real emotion. He essentially sounds like a scared little boy, but could there be any more perfect of a way to sound for this sort of music? It can easily be assumed that fans of emo are usually in their late teens or twenties, and his singing is the embodiment of every quarter-life crisis they might have experienced. His voice is you just as you begin a conversation you've been dreading, or just as you respond to someone who has really hurt your feelings. His voice is you when you're saying goodbye to someone you wont see again for a very long time or possibly ever. His voice is you every time you desperately need to say something but have no idea how to say it. It's all this that makes the vocals all the more special; indeed, they are considerably low in the production so it's probable that the band didn't want anyone paying too much attention to the vocals at all. When you think this way about the vocals it's impossible to ignore the fact that they reflect the music perfectly, with it's hesitant subdued passages and it's frantic, clumsy emotional peaks.
Like I already said, City of Caterpillar
is the soundtrack to every existential crisis I've ever had. Not to state the obvious or anything, but calling an album "classic" is clearly a very personal thing and shouldn't be taken lightly, obviously not everyone will (or indeed should) feel the same way about music but to me, City of Caterpillar
is a classic.