Review Summary: "Got no serotonin left/Signed away your right to be forgotten"
The blog-ification of indie rock has had many unfortunate side effects, but perhaps the most troubling trend as of late is the tendency of music writers and listeners alike to reduce a band to the sum of their influences. Early in their career, Cymbals Eat Guitars were subject to this treatment. Their solid first album Why Are There Mountains
drew critical acclaim and tons of internet buzz, but the bulk of this praise boiled down to "They remind me of Modest Mouse
!" or "It's like a harder version of Built to Spill
". In this scenario, a band usually has two options for their sophomore offering: the "more of the same" approach , or the "difficult" second record. Cymbals Eat Guitars took the latter route on 2011's somewhat overlooked Lenses Alien
, which had a noticeably denser (and frankly, druggier) sound and a newfound focus on lyrics. On the Long Island via New Jersey group's third and best album, LOSE
, we hear the sound of a band that's finally come into it's own, crafting hard hitting rock tunes that pack an emotional punch without losing the hazy beauty of Lenses
Perhaps the most striking thing about LOSE
is the honesty found in the record's lyrics. The record was inspired mostly by the death of frontman Joseph D'Agostino's best friend, and accordingly, these songs are filled with a sense of hurt and catharsis never seen on this level in the band's previous work. The tender balladry of "Child Bride" begins with D'Augustino almost sweetly singing "Child bride, you were my best friend/until your Dad slapped the living *** out of you". That's a sad and horrifying opening salvo, but even more devastating is this revelation D'Agostino has later in the song, one that we realize could apply both to his friend and himself: "Slow the years down/lose your twenties/loaded all the time". The lyrics here often flirt with a Benji
-esque level of TMI, but the record's straightfacedness ensures that lines like "The feds closed Silk Road so I'm out in the cold/I don't know anyone" elicit empathy instead of laughs.
's lyrical impact is impressive on it's own, but equally worthy of praise is the songwriting and craftsmanship that back up D'Augustino's words. Opener "Jackson" surrounds a tale of a trip to Six Flags with stirring strings and horns, adding to the track's interesting combination of wistful nostalgia and fear of the future. "XR", which is arguably the best song here, is an Americana-infused piece of rollicking punk that keeps it's foot on the pedal without ever losing control, and "Warning" introduces a sticky but slightly off
riff that perfectly compliments the emotional unease found within.
If this album has a mission statement, it's probably "Laramie". Here, we find Joseph D'Augustino stuck in a snowstorm in a car with his friend Ben High, who we know is doomed to die. It's the kind of memory that characterizes any close relationship, but one that takes on special resonance after the person we love is gone. The lead vocals flutter around sparse percussion, and an absolutely stunning vocal harmony dominates the chorus. The song ends with a noisy, almost joyful mix of drums and pedals, the pathos of which is amplified by the statement that comes before: "Your street's just a place/it has no memory at all". Whether that's meant to be comforting or sorrowful, I'm not sure, but the true beauty of LOSE
comes in trying to figure out the answer.