Review Summary: Much like 12/21: nothing special.
Attaching anything that hints at the Mayan "apocalypse" we supposedly lived through is nothing short of brazen in this day and age, considering that date had been beaten into our heads for at least a year. There was a weird fascination with that date in which everyone knew
that nothing would happen that day, and we all felt good making fun of the people who thought something WOULD happen, but deep down, we kind of wanted the world to end, just for the excitement it would have created.
Conveniently, This Town Needs Guns' 126.96.36.199
bears its Mayan symbolism proudly, and ends up being a better metaphor for the 12/21 than one might imagine, simply because it's overhyped and a little underwhelming. I suppose the band deserves some credit for making a very technically proficient album so easily palatable; instead of joining the ever-growing list of "technical" bands who bombard the listener with their musicianship in hopes of winning the Most Notes Ever award, TTNG channels their skill into making intricate grooves. The problem with this approach is that the album blurs together. There's no denying the technicality, but not enough effort was spent on giving each song a unique identity or feel.
Of course, by the first two tracks, the homogeneity isn't obvious yet, and there are some enjoyable tracks. "Cat Fantastic" sounds like something Minus the Bear
wish they could have written ("Red wine and tan lines color our differences...we'll be happy when we're willing") with Henry Tremain's smooth vocals trading off with Tim Collis's deceptively tricky riffs. "Havoc in the Forum" is appropriately busy, fueled by Chris Collis's schizophrenic drumming, and it's all the better for it.
But from there on out, everything seems just a little bit tame. "Triptych"'s overly long guitar solo is a buzzkill, and "A Different Kind of Tall (Small)" fails to capitalize on its energetic bridge, petering out instead of hitting its climax. And then there are the interludes. There are four of them. That's one-third of the tracklist; "Pygmy Polygamy" and "188.8.131.52" are worthless, and "In the Branches of Yggdrasil" and "Nice Riff, Clichard" feature some welcome electronic texturing but fail to develop the ideas fully, and none of them do the album any favors that an additional full song or two couldn't have done. Odd, then, that the album's highlight is by far the simplest actual track, "2 Birds, 1 Stone and an Empty Stomach." This delicate acoustic track is not only a showcase for Tremain's vocals, it shows his bandmates at their most restrained, and the result is a breath of fresh air.
Even with that in mind, there's simply too much filler here for this album to live up to its impossibly high hype. The top-notch musicianship is lost amidst all the undeveloped ideas, and there's a pervasive sense of half-heartedness throughout. There's little to nothing that's offensively bad, but I'm not convinced that this album is anything more than relatively pleasant background noise. And when I'm expecting the world to end, "relatively pleasant" just won't do.