Review Summary: A surprisingly mature post-rock effort from a band in a self-described “identity crisis”.
“Does anyone actually care about us anymore?”
That’s what Florida-based prog rock band Tides of Man must have been wondering when they started the IndieGoGo campaign to fund their newest record, Young and Courageous. Veterans (or survivors, depending on your interpretation) of Rise Records, they were dropped by the label and relegated to obscurity when their lead vocalist Tillian Pearson was asked to leave the band amid rumors of him taking on vocal duties for Saosin, which never actually panned out. The band searched for a new vocalist, but stopped after being unable to find one that fit their vision. Fast forward two years, and the band announce their intentions to release instrumental material, which split the remaining fanbase and raised doubts as to whether the band would still be supported by it. But they must have been interested enough to stick with them, as the crowdfunding campaign succeeded and bought the band a fancy studio. Were they right for sticking with a band that lost much of its identity when it lost its vocalist?
In retrospect, given the vocal-centric nature of the band's past efforts, it wasn't all that surprising that the band chose to take a large step back from the fast melodies of Dreamhouse and concentrate more on the post-rock leanings of their first record. Tides of Man might have lost their energetic side, but they remain just as vivid and melodic as ever. The intro track “Desolate. Magnificent.” channels a lot of the slower parts of Empire Theory, “Drift” and “We Were Only Dreaming” have epic, immensely satisfying builds that show the band spent its downtime honing its skills with its new genre, and tracks like the single “Mountain House” show the band hasn't lost its skill with intertwining, hypnotic guitar melodies. But the most immediately memorable track here is the title track – starting off with a simple, slow guitar part and working its way to one of the most hummable leads of the band's career.
But the most impressive element here isn’t any aspect of the composition – it’s the absolutely stellar production that compliments it. There are lots of silly arguments circulating against bands using crowdfunding to afford studio time, the main one being that music can be relatively cheaply produced in one’s home with results comparable to that of a professional studio. Young and Courageous is the greatest testament against that argument; everything here sounds extremely lush and vibrant, clear and defined; much more so than anything recorded in a basement or bedroom.
Young and Courageous may, in the end, lack some of the personality of the previous two releases. Gone are the soaring vocals of Tillian, most of the melodic leads and the immediacy of the music. But it its place is a surprisingly mature post-rock record from a band that used to excel at completely different things, and if that’s not considered an achievement worth extolling, than what is? Tides of Man may consider themselves in the middle of a a self-described "identity crisis", but they sound right at home.