Review Summary: Minimalist post-rock with a twinge of electro, funk, and dance influence. Despite the 27-minute length, El Ten Eleven’s third studio LP is cohesive, enjoyable, and does not suffer from its brevity.
Hey kids…raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of El Ten Eleven! Come on. Don’t be shy! Um…wow…this is rather disappointing…nobody’s
heard of ‘em" OK, fine…well, at least that one weird indie kid in the back of the room is aware of them. The point is, if you’re not that one weird indie kid, you’re certainly missing out. El Ten Eleven’s third studio release, These Promises Are Being Videotaped
, is a concise and listenable journey through electronic-influenced post-rock. The album is consistently catchy and fresh, and might very well be one of the best albums to introduce to post-rock newcomers.
Founded in 2004, El Ten Eleven consists of only two members, Kristian Dunn, the guitarist/bassist, and Tim Fogarty, the drummer. The band is armed with merely a doubleneck guitar, drums, and a whole lot of effects pedals…and that’s it. One might not realize it right away, but the music on These Promises Are Being Videotaped
is about as sparse as it gets. There are no synths, no piano, no computer-generated bleeps and bloops, just guitar, bass, and drums. However, despite the lack of instrumentation, the result is extraordinary danceable and well-layered post-rock music.
Opening with “Jumping Frenchmen of Maine,” Dunn immediately breaks into a thumping, semi-funky bass line in conjunction with an electronic guitar sound that I assume is the result of heavy effect-pedal usage. “Jumping Frenchmen” reaches its peak in the middle, when an excellent distorted guitar and some very awesome effects grace the listener. While the first track is no doubt a highlight of the album, the songs only get better.
Yes, it’s a silly song title, but “I Like Van Halen Because My Sister Says They Are Cool” might be the best cut here. A soft opening leads into some excellently smooth drumming and atmospheric guitar and bass. It’s very hard to describe the emotions El Ten Eleven evokes here, but it’s rather nostalgic, and I would go so far as to compare this track to some of Sigur Ros’ music.
After “I Like Van Halen”, the album hopefully has the listener gripped tight, telling him or her to stay put for a 27 minutes not to be regretted. These Promises Are Being Videotaped
has very few weak moments, those being the forgettable “Fat Gym Riot” and awkwardly heavy closer “Numb Tooth,” which fails to close the album in a seemingly resolute manner. However, music enthusiasts will likely grin at El Ten Eleven’s tribute to Radiohead with a brief cover of “Paranoid Android.” Unfortunately, the band didn’t cover the whole song, merely the second half. Regardless, Dunn and Fogarty have created a chilling, off-key/on-key distorted homage that seems to capture the image Radiohead originally wanted. The last thirty-five seconds of El Ten Eleven’s “Paranoid Android” are brilliant, and make it another album highlight. The heavily-funky “K10” and modestly titled “Adam And Nathan Totally Kick Ass” are also songs which cannot be missed, the latter being the album's most indulgent experiment in electro-rock.
As a whole, El Ten Eleven has left us with one of 2008’s most memorable records; however, I fear that it will go horribly unnoticed. While I’m not an avid indie-listener myself, I came across this band by accident, and must say it’s well worth a listen. These Promises Are Being Videotaped
is carefully constructed and dabbed with a little color. It manages to be excellent despite its sparseness that makes “In Rainbows” look lush with grandiose instrumentation in comparison. So give this album a listen. You won’t regret it. The indie limelight is focusing on bands that, admittedly, might be more suitable to a larger audience, but standing in the shadowy corner are El Ten Eleven, rocking away with some excellent and promising post-rock.
Final Score: B-