Review Summary: Underdogs run wild
Do you ever watch a performance and wonder if the guy playing bass who doesn’t appear on the track credits writes songs? Obviously, there’s more than enough history to show that, yes, he probably has six tunes hiding in his notebook that he’s too afraid to show to the creative genius at the helm. Eyelids is a band made up of indie engine room royalty – principal songwriters John Moen and Chris Slusarenko have served as support in the Decemberists and Guided by Voices respectively. Those notebooks have opened, and on this, their fifth record, the revelations inside show an understanding of power pop that rivals their biggest influences.
First and foremost, this album sounds like a band in which the members enjoy what they’re doing. Perhaps spending time in bands and circuits together in which they were not the leading force has allowed them to start a project in which all the parts are cohesive and necessary. Live performances look like old friends hanging out in a weekend house in which they all brought their gear. They’re low on solos for a band which often features three fluid guitars, and finding a space for them all to meet in the middle in deceptively simple songs is a dexterous feat of arrangement.
Also, there are just no weak songs on this album. There’s no track I can point to and go it would serve the album to drop it from the runtime. There are no pacing problems, no disrupted flow. Perhaps the one-two punch of ‘Runaway, Yeah’ and the title track are a slight problem, just because they’re so damn good
. The former struts with a dipping verse line, guitar shear in the background, until the absent drums represented by stick clash bluster into the mix at the minute and a half mark – just a gorgeous little fill follows to set up a perfect chorus. ‘Misuse’ fills in the space where something like Big Star’s ‘Thirteen’ might – perhaps not as poignant or classic, but as melodically sweet, all bright acoustic points moving into a smooth, rounded payoff instead of an out and out chorus. Do you want driving exigency with Byrds breakdown at the end? Look no further then ‘They said so’.
One might think having Peter Buck of R.E.M. handling production would be a little on the nose, but the man understands the placement of chiming guitars and keeping it simple. He smudges it all ever so slightly on the title track to create a bit of dream crawlspace on the most unpretentiously artful moment on offer, and the results are like the churn at the base of a low waterfall. This is an album about allowing the material to speak for itself – there’s no egregious run-times, no duff tones, plenty of tiny hooks and turns on a line. Eyelids are at the top of their game. If you’re looking for innovation, this will be a desert. If you’re looking for perfection, this will be where you kneel, and the palm trees do not disappear – there’s a sprite breeze and the water is the colour of slate and satiation.