Review Summary: As unequivocally odd as it is accessibleX’ed Out
is the most streamlined Tera Melos has ever been. It’s evident enough, even from a precursory glance at the album’s song titles and lengths, that this is the
album where Tera Melos wants to grow up and leave its prepubescent days behind. No need for long-time fans to worry, though-- X’ed Out
is still quirky enough in all the right ways.
From the chaotic cadences in “Bite” to the hypnotic contemplations that comprise “Snake Bite,” there’s enough variation in X’ed Out
to please longtime Tera Melos fans. This album covers all the bases, from the tapping frenzies of the band’s debut to the blatant pop sensibilities in the group's most recent efforts. And catchy tracks like “Sunburn” merge the two disparate qualities into an infinitely cheerful tune, one that summarizes the personality of Tera Melos’ music in distinctly accessible packaging. X’ed Out
can be viewed as the album that reached towards the opposing aspects of Tera Melos’ work, and pushed them together into a comfortable pocket of consistency-- and one that’s far cozier than expected.
I do have one major bone to pick with X’ed Out
, though, which would be its puzzling production. The guitar is pushed to the forefront, as per usual for Tera Melos-- but it's never sounded so dry. Guitarist Nick Reinhart clearly has the chops for some incredible work here-- and anyone who’s heard the band’s EP Drugs to the Dear Youth
can attest to that-- but his instrument’s flagrantly trebly and grimy tone only serves to dissuade potential listeners. Drummer John Clardy is unfairly represented by the album’s production, as well-- his innovative playing style sounds best when in the forefront, but gets drowned out when the other instruments join the fold.
’s production is most excruciating when the album’s most impacting moments come, because they flounder from the inaudible subtleties tying the experience together. Opener “Weird Circles” is clearly one of the album’s highlights-- it functions as the eccentric cousin to one of fellow math rock group Maps & Atlases’ most recent tracks, “Old and Gray,” because both songs build up suspense only to passionately burst through it. But while “Old and Gray” works very patiently, “Weird Circles” just has to change things up after about a minute. And this is where the mediocre production hurts the band the most, because the track's moment should have been the pinnacle of X’ed Out. Since its importance is somewhat muted, so is the song’s significance-- such is the shame of the new and streamlined Tera Melos, I suppose.
The production doesn’t always fall flat, though. The most obvious success it brings to the table is lead single “Sunburn” and its carefree noodling-- all of which is pleasantly audible. But what’s even more audible is the passion Tera Melos has for the track, and it’s a feeling the band hasn’t exuded since its early days. This is why X’ed Out
is simultaneously a proper return to form and a rebirth of the math-rock-cum-indie group-- the release is filled to the brim with an energetic air that functions like lightning in a bottle, often sought after but rarely captured. And sure, the group could have pursued a different style of production to allow the highlights to reveal themselves more naturally, but Tera Melos isn’t used to holding vocals at the forefront just yet. In addition to providing guitar licks, Nick Reinhart utilizes the album’s fairly basic song structures to find the best uses for his voice. He often succeeds in providing that extra melody each track needs to stay afloat, and this degree of success paints the band in an entirely different picture than the one in which we discovered them several years ago.
Tera Melos wants to write memorable and catchy songs now, and who can blame them? After experimenting with nearly-30-minute noise assaults and EPs that were the equivalent of caffeinated instrumental gymnastics, it’s no surprise Tera Melos favors accessibility in 2013. At least X’ed Out
is the weird kind of accessible-- more people will find the album enjoyable than the group’s previous outings, but only some will have the intimate experience with the album that the band was really planning on. X’ed Out
was written to be loved immediately as well as over time, enjoyed consistently as both we and the band mature further. And for what it’s worth, the album has carried out its mission quite successfully so far.