Review Summary: An amazing finish to an all too short career for this genre defining band.
This album is a truly amazing ending to a stellar band. Sunny Day Real Estate defined a genre that has shifted and changed through-out the past two decades. Beginning their career with the album Diary, an album that changed the landscape of the indie scene and for many, the band created a diamond in the rough and were forever chasing their tales after the completion of that album.
However, for those that followed the band through its tumultuous career and major line-up changes, they had this album, The Rising Tide, to say farewell to a band that was haunted by its greatness. While Diary was near perfection, glaring in the beauty of its post-punk and raw emotion, the listener can find The Rising Tide, as a perfect bookend, with a matured, more polished sound displaying the same amount of emotional muscle in a more direct fashion.
There will always be those that place Sunny Day Real Estate’s earlier work on the mantel of ‘indie rock’ greatness, yet their first few albums, lacked the powerful and cohesive songwriting that The Rising Tide brings to the table. For the most part, the frantic drumming is gone, the prominent bass guitar and scathing vocal patterns of Jeremy Enigk have been replaced with actual singing. While this may take away from the intensity factor, what we are given in return, are magnificent vocal melodies, superb lyrics, and some of the best guitar work Enigk has ever put to tape.
This album is definitely a ‘grower’, after their previous album, ‘How It Feels to be Something On’. That album breathed a dark sadness, an ambiguity, a sound that captured the true essence of what they had seemed to set out to achieve since their inception. Whereas the ‘The Rising Tide’ seems to reflect a different side of them, writing some of the most memorable songs they ever created with an immense amount of maturity and growth.
Whenever I hear the word ‘maturity’ thrown into an album review, I will automatically think, ‘ok this where they mellow down and start to sound like elevator music…’ yet with this album, I find that it seems like all the pieces start to fit into place. The album rarely repeats itself musically, running the gamut from striking acoustic songs such as ‘Rain Song’ to biting rock songs such as ‘Snibe’ which is more reminiscent of their earlier work.
Enigk’s lyrics have always been captivating, but none more so than on this album. The depth of the topics he takes on and the passion he displays as he sings, has a captivating factor that draws the listener in to actually relate, to involve themselves in the music, as a participant rather than a bystander. His awkward voice is definitely not for everyone, but his range is very surprising, going from a low, almost sinister vocal style, to reaching an almost angelic and high falsetto.
In summary, The Rising Tide, shows a band, who started fairly young, creating a trend-setting style of rock that created countless imitators, to walking away from those basic roots, to create something beyond anything their fans could have expected. This fearless approach immensely benefited them, integrating acoustic, folk oriented material, to Pink Floyd escapism drenched in atmosphere, to stadium anthem-style sing alongs…writing an album entirely on their terms, without the constraints of making a Diary PT 2 or simply repeating themselves in any fashion.
Their mix of middle-eastern sounding influences, subtle but well used synthesizers, and a constant variation of Enigk’s different vocal styles, make this album an adventure and well worth the listen. It is actually a shame they never got the attention they deserved, because their genius could easily be spoken in the same breath as Radiohead or Muse. They were always ahead of their time and this album is no different. Their ability to develop and change without losing their edge and unique qualities is something that very few bands pull off convincingly and even fewer bands make it sound effortless and powerful.