Battles
Gloss Drop


3.5
great

Review

by Deviant STAFF
June 9th, 2011 | 179 replies | 23,876 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: What Gloss Drop shows is that battles can be won in many ways, but strength in numbers will always be your greatest asset

If Battles’ debut release Mirrored proved anything, it was that technical prowess and a keen sense of commercial appeal were two ideals that could, in fact, sit side by side quite amicably. The revelation that hidden away in amongst all the eccentricities and the frivolities was this magnetizing and prosperous pop compulsion was only lessened by the immediacy with which this appealing and decidedly fun affair revealed itself. The surprises lurking around every twisted and skewed corner only heightened the experience; expertly crafted shifts from more experimental convalescence into full-on scenes of slightly off-kilter rock that bordered on normalcy were, oddly, as commonplace as they were surprising. It didn’t matter whether they were plumbing the depths for indie-pop gold or locking themselves into the “math rock” tag that’s befallen them, there was a clear-cut sense of mirth; an unbridled and frenetic energy and happiness imbedded in their soundtrack that played out like a demented morning accompaniment to a matinee of lunatic animations.

Now, while it’s easy to point fingers and make bold statements as to why these features fail to be as fruitful as they once were (and the process is ultimately made easier by the recent excursion of Tyondai Braxton), the idea that Braxton’s contributions were intrinsic to the rampant nature of Battles' more inspired moments is one that just won’t disappear. In a very real sense, Battles now appear leaderless, amicably divorced yet persevering. And that perseverance, as forebode in recent press releases, was a push towards a deeper cohesiveness. Which is a completely true vindication of everything Gloss Drop is, but in that search for a more subtle progression the now-trio have lost that spark, that invigorating sense of joy that clearly displayed itself with the likes of ‘Tonto’ or ‘Leyendecker’. And it would seem that that spark lay in Braxton, as the glorious motifs and spastic arrangements of Mirrored all too gloriously reappeared in Tyondai’s solo run, Central Market.

Now less decadent and more deliberate, Gloss Drop finds Battles swimming in a sea of structure and secure foundations. The group attempt to placate themselves with the idea of repetition and stability; the catch is they still pull it off remarkably well, but the reality is that none of it reveals anything new or surprising. We’ve heard all this before; which doesn’t stop the album from being one of the most baroque yet quintessentially enjoyable albums of the year, but it does fall a few steps shy of the marker the group made for themselves four years prior. Battles’ instrumental work is still as off the wall as before, but there’s still that indefinable trait absent in the makeup. It doesn’t come off as predictable as much as it does seem pre-planned; Mirrored was the master class in free jams that just happened to be conducted while someone was smart enough to hold down the record button, Gloss Drop is more calculated yet rigid. There’s less room for movement, only small sections reserved for growth and separation.

To keep themselves from being backed too far into a corner, Battles call in a few favors in an attempt to round out the absence. And truthfully, the guest vocals do provide some welcome reprieves. Without Tyondai’s distorted vocals scissor-cutting their way in over the cacophony the music takes on a rather static complacency. Everything is lined up in perfect formation and detonated in much the same way, the problem is we see it coming. The guest vocals provide a much needed sense of unpredictability; not just in how well they’ll accentuate with the combined group effort, but with where they’ll be able to take it. The problem this presents though, is when these guests do present themselves (and they are stretched pretty thin over the course of the album) they end up turning the specific tracks into oddities for their own creation and decimation. As much as everything on offer here will inherently be related to Battles, you just can’t help but notice as Gary Numan effortlessly turns ‘My Machines’ into his own space rock creation; ditto Kazu Makino’s appearance on ‘Sweetie & Shag’. It’s almost as if the guest spots provide some much needed breathing room for the group to reform, but the reality is that they almost fade completely into the background on these occasions.

For the record though, Gloss Drop is still a fantastic release. The expert musicianship is still there in abundance and the trio performs to their strengths and capabilities admirably, but you just get the feeling that this new incarnation of Battles is still in its infancy and not quite ready or capable at taking on the world again just yet. With this long awaited follow up to Mirrored, Battles do indeed drop the gloss and proceed almost exclusively down the straight and narrow. Granted that it’s still head and shoulders above just about anything else out there, but in its own way it’s still a quiet disappointment. What Gloss Drop shows is that battles can be won in many ways, but strength in numbers will always be your greatest asset.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2011



31047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

My spell-checker was convinced his name was Hyundai Braxton



Digging: Marcel Dettmann - Fabric 77

MO
June 9th 2011



18419 Comments


Nice review man.

Only thing I can find is this " they were the plumbing the ".

Digging: Immolation - Dawn of Possession

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2011



31047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Ooo good catch, cheers ears

Adash
June 9th 2011



1356 Comments


If Yamantaka Eye is on this it is de facto the greatest album ever released outside of Japan

Bassist540
June 9th 2011



373 Comments


Awesome review. The album cover looks yummy.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2011



31047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Good luck proving that adash

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
June 9th 2011



6387 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Are they better on CD or better live?

Digging: Vessel - Punish, Honey

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2011



31047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

They're good, but they've got a sound that's incredibly hard to replicate live. take that however you want

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
June 9th 2011



6387 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks. It's just because I'm going to have to choose between them and I believe it was Antlers on a soon-to-come festival.

Tyrael
June 9th 2011



20797 Comments


Great review Dev, you definitely got me interested.

fractured
June 9th 2011



365 Comments


Damn Dev, nice review. Ya got chops.

Digging: Adebisi Shank - This is the Third Album of a Band Called

MrD
June 9th 2011



15 Comments


Pop? Commercial? Really?

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2011



31047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Listen to 'Atlas' and also realize that pop means popular and not just Gaga

AggravatedYeti
June 9th 2011



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm still not sure what I think about this yet.
good, but maybe not as good as this review : )

MaskAtTheMasquerade
June 9th 2011



2887 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this album is bitchin

IleftyspankedU
June 9th 2011



691 Comments


Isn't their drummer John Stanier (ex-Helmet)?

plane
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2011



6092 Comments


I might like this album more :x but very good review, you describe it well.

Drsmith4
June 9th 2011



1715 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I neg'd.

jk this was a fantastic review. Album's ok, but I need to spend more quality time with it.


balcaen
June 9th 2011



3183 Comments


who the fuck negged?

good review, but damn, i have been bombarded with 4 different opinions on this today already. i don't know who to trust. definitely gotta check this out for myself.

beefshoes
June 9th 2011



3413 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I pos'd to counter.
I am loving this.
Gary Numan's vocal spot is awesome.
This will be a killer summer album.



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