Cymbals Eat Guitars
Pretty Years


4.4
superb

Review

by Rudy K. EMERITUS
September 26th, 2016 | 55 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Try to take it all with me / but we forget finally.

After the emotional pyre that consumed 2014’s LOSE, Cymbals Eat Guitar’s third album and Exhibit A in the argument that there’s still a (lonely) place for majestic, heart-on-your-sleeve indie rock, the band’s fans may be forgiven for thinking the group would dial it back. In many ways, Pretty Years tends to favor the middle lane over the proggier aspects of the group’s past, and in producer John Congleton the band have someone who understands how to keep a sound sharp without sanding off too many of its rough edges. That is to say, Pretty Years is an accessible record, more so than LOSE’s nods to guitar-driven mid-90s indie and the group’s debt to artists like Modest Mouse and the Kinsella brothers. The E Street Street Band-after-a-case-of-Yeungling vibe of first single “Wish” comes as a bit of a shock – that saxophone! - but at its heart is a quintessential Cymbals Eat Guitars song. As a guitar record, Pretty Years perhaps doesn’t reach the delirious heights of LOSE, but the melodies here are more consistently grounded in pop roots, however ripped and dusty they may appear. When that guitar angrily buzzes its way in to duel with the saxophone on “Wish,” it’s a reminder that Cymbals Eat Guitars still know where their bread is buttered – in those muscular riffs and the tortured singer they propel up and onwards.

Frontman Joseph D’Agostino has always been the self-destructive engine that gives Cymbals Eat Guitars’ their underdog character and vibrant, lived-in stories, and Pretty Years reaffirms him as one of the most relentlessly self-critical lyricists around. “Wish,” easily the funkiest, most ostensibly jovial song here, finds D’Agostino mired in nostalgia and regret, the wish of the title one that can’t be granted: “You say the same blood runs through us/ me, though, I maintain that I’m different / years passed and I wish I could show you / and I wish that I told you.” Where LOSE focused on one specific relationship – D’Agostino’s old childhood friend who had passed away – Pretty Years is a more general retrospective of the singer’s adolescence and early 20s, from the elementary school reminiscing of “Mallwalking” right up to the self-doubt that’s never left in “Well,” where he wonders “think I need help, wanna be well / seven years, a million miles / crying ‘cause I’m sick again / is this how it is gonna end? / I’d stay in bed but we’ve got check at 5.” Yet in the brighter guitar tones of tracks like the raucous “4th of July, Philadelphia (Sandy)” and “Have A Heart,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a new wave record, there’s a more optimistic sheen to the proceedings than the somewhat crushing memories on LOSE. “Can’t believe the shit that we were promised really might exist,” D’Agostino sings on “Have A Heart,” a downright celebratory sentiment coming from someone prone to listing all the various ways he can deaden himself to his own self-loathing.

D’Agostino’s refusal to be anything less than intimate and incisive is as much a part of Cymbals Eat Guitars as those prominent guitar leads. While his vocals may remain an acquired taste – a ragged, throat-searing performance that occasionally obscures some of his finest lyrics – his lyrics here, in conjunction with the band’s more nuanced sound and adventurous production, make Pretty Years their most complete record. D’Agostino remains wracked with uncertainty; in “Mallwalking,” he laments that his mother “knows that I’m an empty kid / she buys me stuff to fill me up / but I think I am bottomless,” but despite this he still finds solace in the most mundane of details: “Mama sing a song to me / when it’s time to put the dog to sleep / you are strong when we are weak / keep the name tags on your key ring.” D’Agostino rarely makes things easy, but when he cuts to the heart of the matter it feels all the more genuine, as when he hilariously tells a girlfriend to “cross the street to avoid a tweaker / don’t want you to get freaked out / that’s as much of a declaration of love as I’ll ever muster.” That song, “Close,” ends with a ringing mantra of “locked out we are free” on top of a locomotive groove that builds like a pressure cooker – even when D’Agostino feels on top of the world, there’s a nagging sense of inevitability, of being locked into something that can’t be changed. On “4th of July, Philadelphia (Sandy)” that feeling is summarized plainly: “My depression suddenly lifted,” he sings after narrating a comical day of drinking that turned dark. “All the adrenaline shocked my nervous system / swore I’d be present and thankful for every second / later the feeling faded / I couldn’t help it.”

You’d be hard pressed to find a more telling and relatable shorthand of D’Agostino’s take on life, but closer “Shrine” finds hope in even that somewhat nihilist (realistic?) perspective. Alongside an impressive display of restraint by the band that slow burns its way into a sunburst of white noise, D’Agostino finds something approaching acceptance in surrender: “Where will it all go when I die? / I’ll never know while I’m alive.” The distortion that eventually swallows up his voice and every other sound isn’t exactly a subtle metaphor, but it’s appropriate for a band that has grown accustomed to making grand gestures feel routine and, more importantly, earned. It’s a testament not only to Pretty Years as one of 2016’s best albums but also to Cymbals Eat Guitars as one of the most compelling young bands performing today.



s
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user ratings (119)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Emeritus
September 26th 2016


12409 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

you can pretty much hear the entire record on their soundcloud:



https://soundcloud.com/cymbals-eat-guitars

ashcrash9
Contributing Reviewer
September 26th 2016


3353 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Lovely review, klap

Mallwalking and Shrine in particular are amazing

SandwichBubble
September 26th 2016


13796 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Disagree, but really good review. Maybe I should give this another shot...

FullOfSounds
September 26th 2016


15821 Comments


Man that cover is cool

Slex
September 26th 2016


16615 Comments


this is so much better than Wish initially led me to believe
this band is one of the absolute best

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
September 26th 2016


47652 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

I loved their last one gotta check. Fucking love this guy's lyrics



"D’Agostino’s refusal to be anything less than intimate and incisive is as much a part of Cymbals Eat Guitars as their dedication to the guitar as something to be treasured."



found this sentence a bit of a labyrinth but top stuff otherwise klapper

JamieCTA
September 26th 2016


281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

really solid album. It has grown from maybe a 3 at first listen to an easy 4 for me now. Just saw them Saturday night and he killed it. Very fun show.

AngryJohnny
September 26th 2016


1028 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, this is a another strong offering from these guys. Not big on Wish but don't dislike any of the other songs.

4th of July, Finally and Shrine are standouts for me

klap
Emeritus
September 26th 2016


12409 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

thanks rowan. this was difficult to write and got me tangled up a few times

rockandmetaljunkie
September 26th 2016


9621 Comments


band name is hilarious

anat
Contributing Reviewer
September 26th 2016


5755 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The only thing about this band that I find tiresome is the double tracked vocals, but I hate those in most instances. Just unnecessary. Their debut is frankly untouchable, but this is a great listen anyway.

klap
Emeritus
September 26th 2016


12409 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

i think wind phoenix is still my favorite song of theirs

anat
Contributing Reviewer
September 26th 2016


5755 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Everything on their debut is a goddamn masterpiece

Lord(e)Po)))ts
September 26th 2016


70242 Comments


So does this album actually finally give the band any reason to exist

iswimfast
September 26th 2016


1526 Comments


I love LOSE but this didn't catch me yet, I'll have to try again.

klap being the tops as always.

klap
Emeritus
September 26th 2016


12409 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

does anything have a reason 2 exist gram

juiceviaorange
September 26th 2016


1051 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Rudy, I love you for writing a review on this. I was getting ready to dust off my old critical rhetoric for this but you did a nice job. Fuggin fantastic album and band



whattaya know, LordePots being the most negative person ever again

rafalafa
September 26th 2016


288 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

First heard of them when they toured with This Will Destroy You and was blown away. Album is magical and perfect for jamming on the commute.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
September 26th 2016


70242 Comments


"does anything have a reason 2 exist gram"

reproduction???

Eons
September 27th 2016


3770 Comments


Whiny, derivative, and bland Emo Rock that goes down like spoiled milk in the year 2016.
2/10



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