Review Summary: Gripping, but not tightly enough.
I want every album to take me. With grace, with power, with demand; whether it’s running me into the wall or lulling me to sleep, I want the music to drive and pull me along with it. I can accept when a record has tracks that are weaker than others, but if you’ve swept me away and I am still just as wide-eyed in conclusion, you’ve found success in my ears. Grabbing me is half the battle, keeping me is what really wins me over.
London’s Eaststrikewest crafted a stellar debut in 2009 with “Wolvves,” an album that struck me immediately with its unique, yet cohesive blend of shoegazing, post-rock elements and modern alternative rock. The songwriting was strong, the instrumentation was stronger, and the talent was ever-present and wholly impressive. In 2011, Eaststrikewest have returned to my ears with the interestingly titled “We’re important and we keep the city running. We’re important, we’re important, we’re important...”
The album opens up exactly as I would like it to. “Bless!” and “Twisting Muscles” are soaring tracks that really demand attention. There is definite progression here, but their signature sound has remained. The rhythm section is pulsing and manic, providing a spine to the melodic, droning siren of guitars. Uplifting is probably the best word I could use to describe these songs.
Sadly, the power fades away quickly. As I move through the next couple of tracks, I feel the bulb in my head that first lit up so brightly start to flicker. A glimmer remains, but I can’t help but to feel my initial intrigue fading away. It’s not that every song on the record should follow a certain formula, but as the first songs had direction, these seem to carousel about in dreary repetition.
Track five, “Waking from Comas” is very distinct from the other songs, as the vocals found on this track showcase a certain fragility not found in the stable performance of the group’s primary vocalist. I must point out, however, that the vocals on this album are not only solid, they are another obvious point of differentiation between Eaststrikewest and their peers. Though the overall song structures lend themselves to this as well, I find that the vocals are where I find the “alternative rock” sound to be especially prevalent. This is not a negative observation, just something that I find especially interesting.
While “Waking from Comas” really indulges the band’s shoegaze sensibilities, “Marionettes” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Solemn, striking, yet soft, this song is absolutely radiant. Shimmering guitars are backed by complimentary string-work and xylophone, resulting in a track that hearkens to bands like Sigur Ros. The song is gripping and hypnotizing -- exactly what I’ve been waiting for.
Eaststrikewest have crafted a followup that doesn’t entirely miss its mark, but isn’t quite there. “We’re important and we keep the city running” is not without stellar tracks, as there are quite a few, rather, it would have better acted as a four song EP. The tracks that stand out really do stand out, but the ones that don’t are forgettable as soon as they end. I was gripped from the start, but by the time I reached the end, I realized how quickly I had already let go.