Review Summary: Sometimes it's not what's said that matters most. Emotions are felt, not heard
If one were to sit down and start listening to the album Sunbather
he or she could probably have a couple of simultaneous reactions. The first would probably noticing the emotional impact that is present right off the bat. It is resonant and very noticeable. The second, however, might be something along the lines of "I can't understand a damn word this guy is screaming." And that would be alright for a couple of reasons. One is because lead singer George Clarke is mostly indiscernible for much of the album. He screams and shrieks his lyrics, which also sound as though they have been partially phased out. To be fair it is possible to make out words and phrases occasionally, but for the most part if you don't have the lyrics right in front of you you will have a difficult time understanding what he is singing. That may sound like a harsh criticism, but it's not. I was not at all bothered by this one bit because I don't think it matters very much what Clarke is singing. That's not to say the lyrics are of no importance, but rather that his lyrics come secondary to the music being played in creating strong emotional tones.
And that is the other reason you don't need to understand Clarke's lyrics. Even if you can't understand his words entirely you can certainly feel the emotions he is trying to convey. This is achieved greatly through the aid of guitarist Kerry McCoy and drummer Daniel Tracey.
The two musicians do a fantastic job at creating mood and feeling throughout the entire album. This allows the listener to understand the thought behind the song even if they can't really understand the song itself. The instrumentation on Sunbather
is excellent at creating emotional depth in a way that is cinematic and breathtaking.
As I said earlier, the vocals play a more secondary part to the beautiful musicianship on display here. That's not to say Clarke is a bad singer, just that his singing wasn't actually the main focus here. I get the feeling that the band knew this too, seeing how there are several songs with absolutely no lyrics, while other songs will only have sung lyrics for half the time. "Windows" is a perfect example of this. Instead of vocals there is a recorded sample that mixes with the gentle music creating a very distinct atmospheric quality. It is one of the more mellow songs on Sunbather
, but also one of the most intriguing and unique.
also has some excellent high intensity tracks to balance out the more low key moments. Witness the alarming opening "Dream House." This song explodes upon the ear drums with a heavy dose of high intensity metal. Here the tone is actually tragic and creates a sense of mystery as to why this man is so sad. I could even swear that Clarke was singing "I want to cry."
Bit if it is anger you desire, then the song "Sunbather" is what you want.
It opens with an explosion of guitar playing that is so abrupt and loud it could cause a heart attack. It keeps up this furious pace for about three minutes before slowing down, then picking up even more viciously again.
But the highlight of Sunbather
is it's final track, "The Pecan Tree." This song mixes a wide range of emotions seamlessly and in spectacular fashion. It has slow moments and fast moments, anger and sadness, and extended moments without vocals matched with equally long sung parts. An amazing tour de force.
In closing, Sunbather
is one hell of an album. It is surprising, unique and wholly engaging. It is perfect evidence that you don't always have to understand the lyrics being sung to appreciate the song. What matters is that the emotional mood behind the song is made loud(or quiet) and clear. Sunbather
certainly succeeds at that, and in a fashion both incredible and astonishing.