on October 1, 2011
When it comes to music I could use to be much, much more savvy; have this difficult time sampling new albums, songs, bands due to scarce time, let alone studying interviews, articles, reviews, and it was only thanks to a plug on behalf of Brand New that I was made aware of the Reps. Glad I was, I think.
A first listen-through on Pure Volume left me unimpressed. I felt the riffs were uninspired and that some of the more somber songs were ruined by heavier 90's-esque breakdowns, but something brought me back, and repeated listenings warmed me to the better offerings and the close-to-greatness-highlights which contain just enough as to induce a love-hate addiction. The album starts with a title track, and the message is a tired one. "Monoculture" is a term used mostly in agriculture, where one species is cultivated over a vast area. The title song rails against consumerism, and is possibly asserting that a mass media society has programed, or "cultured", "raised", "bred" us into thoughtless machines, to be told what and how to consume, most being kept too occupied for much independent thought. The criticism's fair and the conclusions are scary. It's not a very nice world that's being painted and these are astute and dismal warnings with motifs of suffocation, but it doesn't change the fact that the same warnings have been preached for decades, that the message's been repeated chronically, is passe, cliched. The sound is heavy, and although 'not really' still strikes me as somewhat industrial, with ringing feedback and distortion, the voice track having been modulated with overdrive or distortion or something. Think: a little hint of Desaparecidos, in my opinion more poetic, metaphors being used cleverly sometimes. The lyrics themselves are often delivered like that of a sarcastic defeatist, self critical in a way that "me" means "an accurate sample of the collective." "Tell me what to buy, tell me where to sleep," as in he's referring to a collective here, saying it angrily, but in such a way where he has also given up.
The second track, Dingus, shows a little of Brand New's influence (post Deja Entendu). The lead guitar track here is a tiny, tiny bit twangy, very simple, elegant, and could fit well onto Daisy (2009, Brand New). Being terrible with my musical history, I can't say Daisy wasn't influenced somewhere, and I only draw the connection because of Sainthood's apparent ties to the band, and admit Dingus's influence could of come from elsewhere.
Telemarketeer, next, is yet another commentary about consumerism, furthering the machine metaphor, and with an interesting angle on long distance communication. It's much less angry than Monoculture, but carries on the same theme with a simple two or three note lead, and a simple rhythm track.
From here the album gets much better. Animal Glue boarders on greatness. The opening riff abruptly transitions into an angry rhythm which is simultaneously morose. I can't comment on the meaning yet... the lyrics are poetic and brooding, the faster riffs manage to be melancholy with just enough reverb, and there are several sections that hook with interesting and moody poetic musings:
"Hopes of dissipation float through your orphaned mind, on the door step of someone's silver line... Disintegration, a smoke screen breaking down. You'll never know that I was... there."
Hunter is a highlighting track and seems to go on about American imperialism in the pursuit of oil. The metaphors are literal enough as to not completely obscure meaning, yet still manage a very brooding poetry. The guitar tracks are simple, elegant, dark, the drum beats a lazy rhythm, relenting for a few brief vocal highlights where the cymbals clash only seldom, managing to paint a sort of epic canvas, landscape, something very vivid but also amorphous. Then No/Survival once again brings some angry angst, but the lyrics are almost incoherent here, the meaning seems obscured, the transition from its preceding track abrupt, the short, simple sentences distorted, spat, mirroring the song itself, which is over fast, the atmosphere confused, immediate, imperative or maybe impatient. Hotfoot comes next, uses a few tiresome images such as burning fires, its beat lazy, with a few slow and high pitched and stoner leads, and makes further use of lyrical distortion which seems predominant throughout the entire album, possibly to its detriment, the images here done to death elsewhere. One feels a sense of deja vu listening to the chorus, 'falling to the floor', "Your the one I admire, your house is on fire", etc, being that similar motif's are utilized obsessively by other bands with a similar bend toward angst. Then there's a fade out and silence for a brief moment into Holiday Makers, a song that manages to keep interest with its surreal metaphors, its ethereal backup singers, its echoing voice-track and a slow breakdown into a catchy and rhythmical assurance to the subject of the song; "everything is fine, everything is just fine", this against the background of an ethereal chorus line, defining partly the beat, the drumming minimalistic, one guitar track reverbing into the fading volume of the voice track.
And then there is Reactor. (Reactor reactor reactor REACTOR!) The song possibly references Fukushima-Daichi, possibly Chernobyl, and boarders on a haunting brilliance but breaks down into this unfortunate, 90's inspired declaration "Watch the world melt away," possibly ruining the ghostly and lonesome images painted against a melancholy guitar. It is so, so close to perfection, and along with Hunter redeems the album and shows a kind of promise or potential that they might refine, that they might extrapolate upon into another masterpiece like The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me or Brother, Sister. It inspires one to repeated listenings if only for the brief moments of melodic pleasure and to curse some of the flaws, to try to ignore them or force oneself to acceptance. If only the first two minutes somehow extended into the next...
And finally, Widow, track ten, bookends an album that seems disparate despite shared themes of modern wastelands and tonal desolation. Fortunately, its a great song. Long but not tiresome, catchy but not shallow, with sharp descriptions transitioning into a synthetic, minimalist instrumental which resembles the opening seconds of Reactor.
I do not regret buying this. I've been living in a sort of musical drought where others I know have moved on to hip-hop and country, mainstream emo-rock, where Bright Eyes simply disappoints me, where many of these changeless bands I used to love have become tiresome rehashes of their former glory without inspiration and where Brand New has claimed to be "semi-done" with the proper creation of albums and Elliott Smith is dead. I haven't even been into music that long and the industry seems like a desert-scape, this album being like a promise of something better over the horizon.