Review Summary: Not the best, but just what we needed
The most notable aspects regarding Xerxes’ second LP can be seen in reference to other bands like Pianos Become The Teeth or Touche Amore, and this highlights both the best and worst facets of 2012’s Our Home Is A Deathbed
. Coincidentally enough, Xerxes home really is
a death bed, in that they very mindfully inhabit space left for them in that combination-of-hardcore-and-screamo-with-just-enough-melody sound popularized by the previously-mentioned acts. Problem is- there’s not a whole lot of space for them, here. Did we really need
another band with song titles like “Our Home Is A Death Bed” who strive to perfect the perfect start-stop + screeching screams + chaotic instrumentation formula? Well, not particularly; but let’s give Xerxes credit for pulling off the feat with some style and dexterity.
The main strength of the record is the dynamic songwriting and lively pacing. Our Home
builds just enough momentum before slowing to a more minimalist atmosphere, then minutes later the fire-breathing rasps of the singer return with gusto. Recognizable, right? It’s a listen not nearly as demanding as last year’s Ampere release, for instance (though “February,” among a few others, does
show off the band’s more energetic chops); yet, the pacing feels much more sincere than Wave-darlings Defeater and their recent pussy balladry. Our Home
feels relatively fresh, overall. This is discounting, though, the album’s obvious, hackneyed surroundings in terms of album and song titles as well as artwork (I tried to narrow it down to one example, but alas...). Thankfully, this doesn’t reflect the quality of the lyrics, as one would rightfully expect, that manage to impart a level of sincerity and significance.
Another pinnacle of Xerxes’ success is in the completeness achieved through more subtle effects like the textures and production, most notable on tracks like “Suburban Asphalt” that slowly linger like billowing, smoke after a roaring campfire flame is doused. As I’m sure you’ve noticed though, nary a few sentences pass throughout this review without a name of another band grazing by. The fact that Our Home
is so inviting and simplistic in its approach leads to it being easily compared to as-adept peers in the scene. Xerxes lies somewhere in the median - I’d love to say this as an unencumbered positive reaction, but take that as you will.
So besides the moments when the melodrama gets to be a bit much, like on “Sleepwalking With You,” Xerxes have written an album bursting not only with interesting songwriting to counter the uninteresting song titles, but with a fresh sense of sincerity. It won’t change any minds about The Wave (or whatever), but Our House
is a straightforward and engaging listen that provides much-needed invigoration to a sound that was quickly deteriorating.