Review Summary: "I jump, and I ask you to join me."
The most ridiculous thing about the latest release by the gargantuan lineup under the gargantuan name that is The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die is surprisingly not the arguably excessive addition of yet another two members, a fourth guitarist and a spoken word artist. The most ridiculous thing about Between Bodies
is that new resident poet Chris Zizzamia fumbles in the places where he had previously affirmed his musical and literary vitality in spite of those who had scoffed at the band's newfound incorporation of "spoken word". On "Precipice" and "Shoppers Beef", both of which had previously premiered on the band's Audiotree live video session, Zizzamia not only neglects dynamic speed-ups and slow-downs, emotional mini-climaxes and breathy decompressions, but he even seems detached from the rest of the band, whose instrumentals already feel contrived and over-produced.
The first true faltering in what is an otherwise strong discography from TWIABP ironically highlights a strength that has served them from the beginning but is absent on Between Bodies
; something that has most likely brought them their audience because it gave their sound a striking quality. It was last exemplified on the band's Audiotree live session--Zizzamia's debut with the band--which begins with ambient guitar tones serving to introduce a ripping drum solo, a familiar instrumental, and a spoken word performance of both independent literary urgency and perfect integration into the already established musical unit that is TWIABP. Zizzamia's poem fades out midway in parallel to the song before the palm-mute riff from "Heartbeat in the Brain" blasts out of the silence. Zizzamia erupts with a new fire, his slightly hoarse voice speeding through stanzas as the rest of the instruments fall into place one by one; bass and drums, more guitars, keyboards, and then Dave Bello and the high-register voice with which he took up the mantle of frontman left by Tom Diaz: "whenever you find home / if everyone belongs there / feeling our bodies breaking down". Zizzamia joins in for that last lyric, pulled into the whirlpool of energy that grew from one riff with such intricacy and energy.
This happens in the space of just over three minutes. The song's Between Bodies
counterpart is over seven minutes long. In opening their Audiotree session, TWIABP cut the bulls**t but not in a rush; it's an impulse of urgency. They sacrificed no artistic integrity to perform "Percipice" in about half the time it takes on Between Bodies
. In fact, they were better for it. Part of TWIABP's appeal has always been that urgency and willingness to do things naturally. Granted, it concedes a pop element to their music, but they never seemed forced and always felt compelling. It was the band's coherence that really turned this to gold: not everyone was always playing at once, but even then, they were playing together. The desperation of their sound always corresponded to which instruments were playing at any given time and the grooves and dynamics that were formed from such collaboration. You could tell that every member was always in the loop because the level of musical intensity was always obvious: whenever something was supposed to happen in the music, every member made it happen collectively.
When Zizzamia joins in on the Audiotree session--especially alongside the whittled-down lineup of "Shoppers Beef"--he exemplifies the instinct of a vocalist performing with a band. He clusters words together tightly to create motion where guitars are only buzzing and plinking in the background, and he lifts his voice as the drums build before forcing them back down so as not to give away the climactic direction of the song so easily. As Steven Buttery's drum solo converges with contorted guitars and atmospheric sounds, Zizzamia spills forward once more and only once more, now more powerfully than ever: "I liked you like I liked the dark / why...would I aim to defeat it"" The lights go dim while the band closes momentously over the course of about two minutes, only without vocals or guitar chords or any great show of melodrama. Drums thrash, notes fade in and out and even though you know it's over, you don't want to say goodbye. Derrick's guitar is the last to dissipate, but in the end, the band goes silent together.