Cymbals Eat Guitars - LOSE | Album Review | By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret

Cymbals Eat Guitars


LOSE still finds Cymbals Eat Guitars at their explosive best.

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Author: on September 5, 2014
Barsuk Records
August 26, 2014

I’ll raise a toast to rock n’ roll ghosts!” Joseph D’Agostino growls halfway through the country-punk stomper “XR”, trying, it would seem, to send his spit through digital wavelengths and right out of your speakers by manifesting the potential of quantum physics. In other words, he means it. But D’Agostino couches this sentiment in his own perception of how to attune to these ghosts of the past, present, and yet to come: I’ll give you a hint, it’s found through a veil of nostalgic, nostalgic weed. So much has been the case throughout Cymbals Eat Guitars’ young career — their success owes a great deal to their understanding of who their influences are and how to play to these influences without sounding self-indulgent. Because, let’s face it, the music smattered throughout the band’s first two records, 2009’s Why There Are Mountains and 2011’s Lenses Alien, always teetered precariously along that cliff where one step too far would have plunged the group head over heels into a territory populated by the bones of Arms Way and pretty much every album by …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. Such precarity also proved to be one of the big draws of Cymbals Eat Guitars’ music, but with the release of LOSE it sounds like the band needed to find solid ground.

Such metaphors might suggest LOSE is a safe record by a band that built its early reputation on being anything but. That’s not really the case, though, because LOSE still finds Cymbals Eat Guitars at their explosive best. No, the real difference on this new record is a new found sense of propulsive purpose, of understanding and focus. Why There Are Mountains flirted so much with the monumental that it at times felt long-winded (see: closer “Like Blood Does”). Lenses Alien, outside of the absolutely sprawling and beguiling opener, tightened things considerably, but it wasn’t tightening into focus so much as compacting an uncanny sense of wanderlust into little nuggets of raucous thrashing that was at times difficult to follow — the album didn’t so much end as it seemed to just run out of breath and stop. LOSE, on the other hand, feels complete: each track almost prescient of its own place in a sequence.

So when D’Agostino praises those “rock n’ roll ghosts” he does so by taking some of their elements of cohesion into his songwriting. The album is even bookended by two long form tracks of similar structure, but where opener “Jackson” pushes ever onward out of the gate to a fanfare of trumpets and firey guitar solos, closer “2 Hip Soul” rumbles out first with a blaze and lastly with a quiet piano conclusion. The way these songs work as catalyst and cap to the rest of LOSE represent a new found sense of balance and patience in D’Agostino’s songwriting. Part of this new found focus and cohesion has to be down to the addition of new drummer Andrew Dole whose rhythmic sense gently prods these songs into place, keeping a tight leash when necessary, but never afraid of letting things unfurl and expand. Album highlight “Laramie” turns on a dime to show the band at their patient best before exploding into outer space. The first half is a slow dirge featuring one of the best synth sounds I’ve heard in a rock song for quite some time. Just as the song seems to be petering out it shoots off into a stellar, foot-stomping second half where squalling guitars are driven along by the excellent rhythm section. It’s easily one of the best pieces of music the band has recorded to date.

In fact, while perhaps a difficult and ultimately meaningless thing to postulate, LOSE might be the best record put out by Cymbals Eat Guitars to date. The highs might not be as stratospheric as those heard on Why There Are Mountains, but there is also a distinct lack of lows over these nine tracks. The band’s watermarks remain to appease devoted fans — the hooks are still weirdly catchy and D’Agostino is still a lyrical whiz kid who can set a scene or make an observation with precision and aplomb — but now there is a willingness to hold things together that might win over those in the indie rock crowd who were dismissive of the band’s first two records. And as opposed to scoffing, instead they’d exclaim: “hey, that weirdly catchy hook actually shows up again later in the same song!” Case in point, “LifeNet” feels entirely like a song built in the world Cymbals Eat Guitar imagine into existence, but the slick production and ear-worming chorus suggest alternate universe radio-rock. And, who knows, perhaps it’s a song that could make it on to the radio (no, I’m not talking about college radio either). The band has certainly reigned in some of its frayed ends, which will appeal to a much larger audience in the long run. Importantly, this doesn’t feel like a sacrifice or capitulation to someone else’s idea of how to be a good indie rock band; no, the album sounds like a new idea D’Agostino and co. wanted to explore and this tighter, more cohesive route just so happened to be the best platform for such exploration.

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