Review Summary: Expertly fused noises from very different musical eras and areas, with a distinctive pop music influence to boot
With neo-psychedelic soundscapes that sound like they come from some futuristic Eastern European village, "All Hour Cymbals" is one of the most unique albums of the past ten years. Coming from seemingly nowhere, Yeasayer beautifully blend African and Asian styles to create the type of worldbeat sound popularized by Peter Gabriel and David Byrne before them. Truthfully, it could be seen as a revival of the genre though, as the six years since its release have proven, indie rock bands have not exactly jumped on the worldbeat bandwagon (as such a bandwagon hasn't really existed). But that only adds to the intrigue surrounding this album, which truly stands on its own in the music world.
For all intents and purposes, it's a mess. A mess of sitars, synthesizers, bongos, tribal harmonies, and whatever the hell else the Brooklyn-based Yeasayer decided to throw into the mix. But the final product is a mesmerizing success unlike anything that has become popular in recent years. It seems otherworldly at first listen despite being so rooted in this world. The first trio of tracks are the most talked-about on the album as well as perhaps the most accessible. They're plenty avant-garde, that can't be argued, but they certainly have roots in pop music as well, making for not one, not two, but three tribal pop whoppers that start off the album quite nicely.
The music, talked about heavily in this review, while phenomenally weird, is not the only thing that makes "All Hour Cymbals" so great or noteworthy. The lyrics are very well-written and have the sort of dystopian angst that is so odd but so fitting for this album. From '2080,' a track which made its rounds through the indie blogosphere in 2007, is especially impressive in terms of lyrical content and this line has to be my favorite: "I can't sleep when I think about the times we're living in/I can't sleep when I think about the future I was born into." Such a simple point, yet so poetically expressed. There is a cynical vibe to most of the lyrics on this album, with the only celebratory words being quite bittersweet in nature.
Every so often, an album comes along that is so radically different than anything else out there that it challenges what we as listeners know and perceive as musically "normal." Yeasayer take their geographically diverse influences and fuse them with more contemporary pop elements to make something sublimely original. Sounds from different areas and eras are effortlessly concocted in a way that would be an impressive for any artist, let alone a brand-new band on their debut album. Open your minds a little, let Yeasayer set up camp in your brains and allow them to absolutely blow you away.