Review Summary: I, You, We
Ceres was my favorite discovery of this past January. Here was an Australian emotional rock band that had seemingly came out of nowhere back in 2012, and nowhere in truth really, since they haven’t ever been a band to follow social media marketing trends and the like to explicitly showboat themselves or their music. Instead they climbed to relative attention in their local scene in Melbourne by playing the small shows when they started out and slowly built up from there. Making and fine-tuning their songs on the road and on stage gave birth eventually to the absolutely fantastic 2014 debut LP, I Don’t Want To Be Anywhere But Here
, and then following it later in 2016, the also quite good yet spotty Drag It Down On You
What’s so great about these guys up to this point is centered in mustache-champion, singer/lyricist Tom Lanyon. This guy carries the perfect vocal style and range for the realm of emotional rock, capable of lulling with a soft whisper-y style of singing before all the sudden jumping to the opposite end of the spectrum and howling to the heavens in the same song. “Jam Song” from the debut album does just this, and it still stands as my favorite Ceres song for the way it effortlessly coveys an emotion of indecisiveness complete with an epic build up in a mere two-and-a-half minutes.
What started to happen on Don’t Drag It Down On You
, however, gave me the feeling that the band were beginning to run out of ideas, or at the very least were writing songs and weren’t being able to complete them in a way that came across as natural when compared to the emotional conjurations of the debut. Opener “Okay”, “Us”, and “Loner Blood” are all evidence of this, being mostly incomplete portraits of Lanyon’s feelings—the first song actually ends abruptly for no reason, which is a horrible way to open an album, honestly. Still, that album carried the likes of “91, Your House”, live-favorite “Choke”, “Del-Del”, and the fantastic closer “Baby’s Breath”, so it wasn’t like the Ceres that had created the debut didn’t exist anymore; the well for their inspirations just seemed to be running a bit dry is all.
Now on the new We Are A Team
, that creative well for Ceres and Lanyon is completely dry.
But in a way that’s okay, though, because Ceres have gotten the most out of all that remained. Lanyon himself seems to indicate this in his recent interview with Chorus FM: “This record is everything we had [. . .] a part of me thinks this might be the last record we’ll ever do.” The idea going into this record is that Lanyon has found love in his personal life, and having found it, the band’s music has changed, both in its level of intensity, and obviously in the way it feels, being much less aggressive. The three per-release singles gave evidence of this fact, and I and many fans were quick to worry about the rest of We Are A Team
, as initially it sounded like Ceres not being Ceres.
No need to worry, though, as, yes, Lanyon is happier, but We Are A Team
still largely sounds like a Ceres album; and while different and possibly the last they write, it is at least a viable effort. Like “Okay” before it on their previous album, “Marriage” kicks this off with a song about proposing. “I’m gonna get happy,” Lanyon begins. “I’m gonna tell them it was all for you.” Here, Lanyon’s partner is introduced as the song’s lyrical subject, and she will return for a large part of We Are A Team
as his main inspiration. The song has quickly become a favorite, with what sounds like a female back up singer in the songs anthemic, catchy closing refrain: “I’d ask you to marry me, but you’d say no.”
Elsewhere “Dancing Patterns” with its highlight of similarly dancing guitar leads invokes more images of Lanyon’s pursuit of marriage: “Picture me on a cliff’s edge, and I’ll dream of you in your wedding dress. I wanna die a happy man.” The singer has publicly stated that his partner actually doesn’t want to get married, yet all the same he chases after the idea of it for the sake of love. Some of the record finds him dealing with his remaining insecurities, however, many of which fueled his aggression and negativity in past albums. These instances are where the record is at its strongest, probably due to the fact that it reminds me of Ceres at their peak. “Stay Awake” is one such song, with its quiet beginning that then evolves into We Are A Team
’s heaviest moment, and “I Feel Better Outside” captures the unease about the quality of oneself when falling in love. At almost six minutes, it’s the album’s longest song, but it never feels tiring, highlighted again by a yearning refrain.
The album could do without “Water The Garden,” the pre-release singles—except “Viv In The Front Seat”, perhaps—and the sappy acoustic closer, “Something Good,” however. These are instances where the songwriting is stale and remind me that We Are A Team
could and likely should be the band’s swan song. “Water the Garden” has a weak hook and makes little sense lyrically, and both “Me & You” and “Kiss Me Crying” are where Lanyon pours the saccharine-sweetness of his new feelings on a little too thick. These cuts don’t exactly sound like Ceres songs, mainly because they aren’t that good, sadly yes, and Lanyon also seems to have forgotten what the band’s fans enjoy here. “Collarbone, 2011”, however, is a different story, being rebuilt from both a song from an early EP and “Upwey, Tacoma, Belgrave” from the band’s debut album. The song is pure fan service, and I appreciate the band placing it on here as it serves as a way for fans to look back on the band and to be thankful for their work. If We Are A Team
is goodbye, it’s fitting at its strongest, and in all other places, it is at least a happy one to go out on. Best wishes and good luck, guys. Thanks.