Review Summary: Unquestionably the best album named Take Care in 2011.
There are a lot of people out there who've decided that for Explosions in the Sky to keep doing what they're so good at isn't enough; that while the AC/DCs and Aerosmiths of the world were allowed to get off scott-free with churning out the same album over and over again, and Sigur Ros and Godspeed very rarely see any criticism for their minimal development between records, Explosions shouldn't be given the same breaks. It kinda puts them in an impossible position, doesnt it? Give the fans what they want and get slaughtered by every two-bit music critic desperately looking for something interesting to say, or branch out and risk alienating the fans while still getting laughed at by the critics you'll never please?
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
feels like the first album where EitS are directly responding to the haters. It's a shame, really, because they should be above all that and they have been for years, and it's by responding to irrelevant criticism that their careers will start to unravel, as they forget their strengths and chase approval that they're never going to get. Yet Take Care
pulls off a hell of a trick - it remembers who they are and what their fans love them for, while also branching out into new territory.
Part of the new territory is a move toward rock - "Last Known Surroundings", with its distortion and driving rhythms, isn't a million miles away from Built to Spill, and "Trembling Hands", with its insistent, rolling drum pattern and a lack of the quiet-loud dynamic shifts that define post-rock, is in a similar ballpark. It's noticeable, too, that "Be Comfortable, Creature" doesn't gain its complexity from layering simple guitar parts, as their older songs usually did, but instead uses folky arpeggios that don't feel too far from the kind of thing a metal band might do in their more contemplative moments. There are vocals, too, although no lyrics - it's just another instrument, another layer of sound. It's still post-rock, but there's a boldness of rhythm and a renewed focus about the whole thing - even "Let Me Back In", one of the album's most relaxed moments, rides a rhythm that one could, at a push, describe as 'jaunty'.
But then, in the midst of this newness, is "Human Qualities"; a classic EitS track, and their finest moment since "Your Hand in Mine". Some subtle, Bjork-esque glitches aside, it does nothing that they weren't doing on The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place
, but still does it better than just about anybody else in the genre.
What really stands out, though, is how happy
this album is. Explosions have never been quite as depressive as colleagues like Mogwai, Godspeed, and Yndi Halda, but this still feels like a step into new territory - where before their songs could be wistful and nostalgic, only ever implying happiness, these are entirely unambiguous about their mood. This isn't just unusual for Explosions, it's unusual for post-rock as a whole. Now who's just doing the same thing over and over again? And more importantly, who gives a fu
ck? Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
is another great Explosions album that hits the same sweet spots their fans expect, while offering up a few new tricks along the way, and in doing so they've answered questions that had no right to be asked in the first place. A great success on every level; this is their best album since The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place