Wednesday, September 7, 2011
[pitchfork.com] Cymbals Eat Guitars have followed Why There Are Mountains, their self-released debut of 1990s indie rock alchemy, with a difficult and likely divisive sophomore LP. Which isn't all that surprising-- these things happen when the "next step" involves signing to a label, hiring a venerated producer (John Agnello, who also worked this year with alt-revivalists Male Bonding), turning over half of your personnel, and releasing an 8 1/2-minute song as the "first single." Here's the thing: Lenses Alien doesn't really sound all that different from Why There Are Mountains, which is a tribute to how fully formed and musically tight CEG were right out of the gate. Perhaps the most challenging thing about Lenses Alien is how it makes what it sounds like fairly unimportant: Like last time, almost none of its sonic touchstones exist outside of the Clinton administration, but Joseph D'Agostino takes an enormous leap of faith by doubling down on his brick-thick verbiage during a lyrics-first record that puts more confidence in the listener's attention span than pretty much anything else I've heard this year.
It's become something of a cliché to praise an "album in the mp3 age," and while Lenses Alien certainly isn't intended to be strip-mined for singles, it's meant to be experienced on a remarkably micro level. It's actually more ambitious than the already grand Mountains, but it doesn't manifest in Byzantine song structure or far-flung sonic touches. While there's a peripheral shift from the more blue-collar, populist likes of Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, and the Wrens into the deconstructive and unfairly less celebrated Cap'n Jazz (when it's loud) and the Appleseed Cast (when it's quiet), the craft is evident in how every lyric and riff is exactingly honed to be of near equal importance.
The rest of Lenses Alien doesn't take after the sprawl of "Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)"-- it's about twice as long as anything else-- but it lays out the record's rules of engagement. I've talked with others who consider its flow to be somewhat clunky, which is understandable considering what listeners typically expect from a song of that length, particularly an opener. There's not an epic build or a cataclysmic blowout: D'Agostino occupies the mind of an unstable, possibly predatory narrator, changing perspective and mood from verse to verse, the extended floods of physically punishing guitar feedback acting as outbursts of mental anguish linking unorthodox yet accessible and sprightly vocal lines. I'll call it anticlimactic as a compliment: Over an ugly, gnarled cluster of notes, D'Agostino asks, "What former police sits at the bus stop offering rides?” and the song ends abruptly like a stunning reveal. After eight minutes of psychodrama played out in his head, the camera pans out for you to imagine the yellowed teeth or cold, vacant stare of its main character.
READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW HERE.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 11:10 PM