Review Summary: And So I Watch You From Afar up their quirkiness to an almost unbearable degree, but have lost a lot of what made them such a marvelous and arresting group.
To be quite honest, it wasn’t until a couple of weeks after acquiring All Hail Bright Futures
that I was able to make it through each song on the album. It wasn’t anything truly tangible; after all it’s the same band that’s been producing some of instrumental rock’s most intriguing albums of the last five years. It’s a frenzied cacophony of weird sounds that somehow all congeals into a reasonably sensible package. Yet that the engaging quality that the band has always had simply was not there. Nothing I heard kept me glued in place until I had devoured each track--something was missing. To be frank, this isn’t quite
the same band that released the marvelous And So I Watched You From Afar
or the satisfying Gangs
. This ASIWYFA retained their core sound, but went off in every different direction seemingly at once. And while the concise direction is effective, it isn’t the same band I fell in love with four years ago.
Where ASIWYFA have always excelled is in their quirky execution of the whole math rock schtick. Straying away from crisp, clean, and glimmering production and songwriting, the band has always sounded a tad off kilter. While their peers, such as Enemies and You Slut!, embrace an immaculate delivery, ASIWYFA like to do things a bit differently. Normally that is the case, but with All Hail Bright Futures
the band has transformed into something much more familiar. This in turn has caused the album to sound just like every math-rock tinged instrumental album of the past several years. It isn’t edgy, it isn’t particularly arresting, and it sure as hell isn’t the same band that wrote “Set Guitars to Kill.”
All of that isn’t necessarily a bad thing exactly. The band still manages to outclass many other acts in the genre by the weirdness of their character alone. They’re still goofy and still fun. The poppy intro to “The Stay Golden” is indicative of that, as is the heavier emphasis of layered vocal melodies. There’s tons of additional instruments and electronic influences to be found as well. These inclusions go a long way in showing that the band has not stagnated. Fresh ideas can be found amongst the more derivative ones. Luckily these appear quite often. One only has to listen to the first two tracks to ascertain that ASIWYFA are not a band to shy away from trying out new things. Some of it works, while some of it doesn’t. At many points it seems a bit aimless, as if the band members themselves weren’t sure of the album’s direction. It’s here where All Hail Bright Futures
sounds more like a group of guys noodling around on their guitars, where they used to sound much more focused.
All Hail Bright Futures
is a mixed bag that sees And So I Watch You From Afar progressing their sound, but not always in the best direction. It calls to mind Patagonian Rats
, where the niche math-rock band Tera Melos decided to branch out, yielding in mixed results. Here, ASIWYFA latch on to a smorgasbord of ideas and only sometimes hit the mark. While it isn’t a poor effort, per se, it is quite a far fall from the stunning work the band has been shown to be capable of.