Review Summary: You'd better start swimmin'.
The Sound, much like many post-punk groups, have a certain level of subtlety and dryness that aids in their sorrowful heat. The roots of punk are there - rough compositions, fiery passion, youthful energy, etc. - but with less snotty aggression and more bittersweet melody. The Sound don’t blatantly experiment with post-rock on From The Lion’s Mouth
, meaning it shares some elements that are hard to ignore with bands of the gothic-esque Joy Division-Cure ilk. That’s hardly a critique, mind you, more of an inevitable comparison that honestly does this band a disservice. As any post-punk fan worth their salt can probably tell you, The Sound were one of those bands that skirted below the mainstream and never really took off, despite being critical darlings. They've always had their fans but just couldn't hit it into the A-listers. Maybe they were too melancholic to fit with Modern English, but not intense enough to sit next to the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Despite this, they find their own - in a way. I’m not gonna claim to hear a masterpiece in From The Lion’s Mouth
, but there’s a lot to like about it, mainly in its atmosphere. Much like other classic depressive post-punk records - Unknown Pleasures
, In The Flat Field
- this full length is oppressively emotional, wrought with issues to be mourned over. And yet, at the same time, it feels like The Sound is searching less for sympathy and more for answers. They’re on a mission to tend to their wounds, not to merely ache and wallow. Take the first song, “Winning,” a fairly optimistic track that features lyrics describing how hope has led to success and survival. Or “The Fire,” a faster track that describes a bright fire and acknowledgements of one’s own inability to change their track, portrayed as a hurdle in the way of achieving an internal locus of control. The Sound build a character on From The Lion’s Mouth
, one that’s looking to overcome their own downfalls.
“Winning” almost feels sarcastic when viewed in the overall frame of the record, making the swimming our protagonist does sound effortless, but this record’s journey is not one to be scoffed at. The deep bass tone and the sorrowful synths on songs like “Judgement” and “Contact the Fact” loom over the protagonist as they wade the seas of doubt and hesitation, but The Sound’s sound (heh) is far from hopeless, as a steady back beat and invigorating guitar riffs fill the swimmer with hope, keeping them going through a trial that would otherwise seem hopeless. As the album goes on, self-pity becomes determination and sneering cynicism becomes acceptance of previous mistakes and acknowledgements of past advice.
This all comes to an end on the most formidable foe, titled “New Dark Age.” Suddenly the drums slow down, the guitar turns to lightning striking at our protagonist, the bass starts to weigh down on them like rocks on their back. It’s the dawn of a inky blackness that’s taken over the once gray skies. It feels hopeless, like this journey was all for nothing. The song swells and picks up pace as it goes on, an impending doom drawing closer, until the “New Dark Age” hits. What follows is silence. Our protagonist was never real, just a relatable metaphor for the emotions of this record, but I hoped for his safety. “New Dark Age” is a bittersweet ending, as it offers no emotional closure. If anything, it leaves off right during the climax, just when the “New Dark Age” hits. The Sound sought to mend their wounds, but we have no way of knowing if they ever could. Is the “New Dark Age” an ending or a beginning❓ Just as The Sound never saw major success, we will never get to see a conclusion to the themes of this album. We’ll never get to see what came From The Lion’s Mouth