Review Summary: It made me feel drunk and sad.
There's this concept that's been snowballing as the information age progresses in the first world: concentration as a new currency. As we riddle our brains with instantly available information and handicap our bodies with hours spent immobile, our focus has become erratic, unpinnable. You win a game of poker and you're the king of the household. Then a car crash down the street wakes up the neighborhood and the police cars become a talking point. Then the president's wife suddenly has a special announcement on the telly on how to stop being fat. The party disperses to pursue their own deviant devices. How about a wank? Etc.
, with 'Transit Transit', has fully embodied this concept, both for better and for worse. 2004's excellent 'Future Perfect' was a catchy blend of pop, kraut rock, grunge, and shoegaze with touches of ambient electronic influences made initially for live performance, with allegedly everything on-disc able to be done on-stage. With fever-dream lyrics, rock-solid rhythm courtesy of the prolific Carla Azar and bassist Eugene Goreshter, and squealing-baby-mutant-alien guitar noises from the pits of ex-Failure
ite Greg Edwards addled subconscious, the debut was a decidedly good time, though nothing revelatory.
Six years is the amount of time Autolux took to pump out another full-length, and the distractions, diversions, crises and the collapse of the group's home's economy (LA) in the 2008 recession are sewn within the follow-up. Where only the lyrics were abstract and unpredictable on 'Future Perfect', the whole package has become a mixed bag. Where once live drums, squeals and feedback from looped guitar tracks created builds before, vintage synths, drum machines, and even piano take their place. More than anything, though, 'Transit Transit' is desperate, let down, and disconnected in a more visceral way than OK Computer's dadaist guitar anthems portray. "You can't think straight, you can't think straight," Goreshter realizes in between byzantine guitar riffs. "Waking up was such a waste," Azar agrees. These songs come from the heart of a society reeling from the realization of the information age's great lie. Life is not infinitely better, problems are not easier to solve. The dream promised by technology is being confronted by common failure. Normal people, caught in between, are losing focus of what is important. The disembodied lyrics of "everything's so far away, no control and nothing stays... now you're living the wrong life. Someone else fell on your knife," are reinforced by waves of screeching feedback broken by steady guitar builds and Goreshter's chugging bass, locking in a feeling of consistent unease. Each track, despite the diverse instrumentation, keeps to this central theme: confusion despite access to the good life, the contradiction of unease within relative calm. At the center of the album is 'Spots', a gorgeous ballad suited for walking through city streets in the rain, where this theme is most bare. Autolux, no longer content with sonic repetition, are trying their hand at being human.
As mentioned before, though, the diversity is also this album's flaw. Each track is alien to its neighbors sonically, with only the 'Census'-'Highchair' transition feeling natural. It takes repeat listens in order for the pieces to fit together, but the varied nature of tracks is deliberate. Focus is impossible. Variety is the now the norm. Take Azar's advice on this one: "Just let it be broken".