Review Summary: Accessibility and technicality intertwined.
If I was to say anything about the music of X'ed Out
, it would be that it acquaints us with a new and improved style. This is the album when we witness the sound Tera Melos has been struggling to develop, finally reach its culminating fruition. Every sound and concept that's explored here is fabricated and executed with an inspired ingenuity that has been, quite frankly, absent in the band's recent efforts. Certainly an audacious statement on my part, I know, but I'm in awe of this recent transformation that Tera Melos has undergone. Their previous album, Patagonian Rats
, offered a few entertaining moments in its own way, but it focused exclusively in introducing new dynamics that weren't fully expertised by the band at the time. Patagonian Rats
was Tera Melos' attempt at infusing harmonic singing with the irregular movements of math rock. It's a difficult concept to actualize, and though there were times when Tera Melos actually achieved this goal, the majority of the compositions felt awkwardly arranged and just strained haphazard ideas to the point of exhaustion. Patagonian Rats
was a necessary stepping stone though, it may not have been the triumph of their ambitions, but it laid down the groundwork that X'ed Out
would eventually build upon.
One of the main reasons that X'ed Out
is superior to Patagonian Rats
lies in the fact that it doesn't try to squeeze in overly complex rhythms into a pop-structured format, instead the music is able to progress at a more natural pace rather than being forced into drastic shifts. Tera Melos isn't nearly as concerned with spontaneous technicality here in X'ed Out
, and instead choose to focus all their attention on simplified melodic tunes and quasi-psychedelic hazes. There are moments when Tera Melos manages to echo some of the hyperactivity of their previous albums, though it's often to a faint degree. For example, the main highlight in the album, "Sunburn", which follows a relatively fast tempo, still feels rather tamed when compared to the tracks in Patagonian Rats
and the eponymous debut. "Sunburn" examplifies the conventional structures that overrun the album. The guitar work and drum patterns are certainly bombastic and mildly rapid in their deliveries, but rather than using that framework to catalyze pulsated rhythms for auditory dazzle, Tera Melos seems far more reliant on keeping a sturdy melody while occasionally dropping some clever hooks. The idea of embracing euphony and trimming away all superfluous erraticism to enliven the music, incites a higher level of intrigue upon the listener. There are moments of colorful spectacles to be found here, as the band still makes usage of angular melodies and the occasional start-and-stop dynamic, but are no where near as indulgent as in their past releases. Songs like "Bite" and "Melody Nine" at times flaunt some vaguely abstract exercises, but they're more devoted to emphasizing atmosphere and attraction, while the math-styled tantrums serve as added seasoning.
One of the most appealing aspects of the entire album is Nick Reinhart's newly polished vocals. He definitely takes his role as the frontman of the band much more serious this time around, and therefore, all of the instrumental aspects are centered around his singing rather than just floating along the abrupt craziness of the music. "Tropic Lame" is a good example of this. It definitely has its share of distorted roars and vivacious blasts, yet it operates under a tightly controlled pop-environment, which allows Nick Reinhart to accentuate his vocals with a mellower and more mellifluous tone than ever before. And because his vocals aren't surrounded by erratic musicianship, his singing abilities have a brighter spotlight to work in. This new poppier side of Tera Melos is definitely intriguing, and whether you support their new identity or not, it's reassuring to know that Tera Melos is a band that strives for creative expansion as opposed to wallowing in their comfort zone. X'ed Out
is driven by a completely different mindset than its predecessors. It trades away all of the suspenseful theatrics and labyrinthine journeys to formulate a more coherent agenda. Its transparency isn't determined by how much attention you're willing to devote to the music because there's no obscurity to comprehend here. This album isn't about questioning convention, but rather embracing it. The music radiates melodicism, with each song inviting the listener into an environment of splendorous euphony rather than alienating with irregularity.
In Patagonian Rats
, we found Tera Melos questioning their identity and expressing a yearn to explore something beyond their world. It introduced no drastic change in style, but it did hint at where they would go next. Years later in X'ed Out
, we find Tera Melos familiarizing themselves with a new terrain, while occasionally looking back to where they once were. For a band that made their breakthrough promoting the spontaneous nature of math rock, it's surprising to see them make their comeback with an album that often compromises that once essential characteristic. Nevertheless, this adventurous side of Tera Melos has certainly made me curious to see what they have in-stored for us in the next album, whether they'll expanded upon this sound further or completely disregarded it. I suppose it all depends on how well X'ed Out
will be received, as I'm sure it's destined to attract as many new fans as it will repel older ones.