Whoops. Only a few days after I blog about "first discoveries" and sign off by asking for comments, Ryan North says, "Honey! You look pathetic and desperate!" And it's a fair point, really... but I ended up on more of a tangent than I thought, and it turned out to be a more interesting story than the review itself. But nonetheless, here's the promised review!
(Uh oh. Did I just admit this would be a worse article than Thursday's? See, this is why it's a bad idea to blog too much about the art of blogging.)
The album starts off on my good side. As you can see, the cover art is a portrait of the most successful non-floater in history. Also, the opening track is named "Nth", which would actually be a pretty handy word, if it managed to catch on outside the math world. However, it's not so much a "song" as a "dramatic buildup".
As is the next song, except it's more of an "introduction to half the band."
As is the next song - hey, what's going on here? I didn't expect a Genesis concept album here... although maybe I should have known better than to expect the same music as last time, what with the album being called SHAPESHIFTING. Think that one through, Denton.
"We Have Everything" is clearly their first single, and it is indeed the sound I remember so fondly, but with a bit more pulse to the electronic sound. How can I complain?
However, the album then dips again into doldrums, adopting a sort of heavy, plodding tempo that nearly puts me to sleep, even though it's clearly influenced by reggae, calypso, and steel drums. I know, I know. "Shapeshifting."
The final two tracks are probably what the band truly wanted to achieve: a total descent into... what's the word for "sounding crazy, but it's all on purpose to fit an artistic statement?"
Psychedelia. That's what was on the tip of my tongue (and possibly theirs). And they know the secret's out, which might be why they throw out the lyrics with a poetic bombast usually reserved for the likes of Björk or Shatner.
Spheres and charms and aching arms
I would be warmth and
spring / A flooding creek and
Bells ringing, ringing, ringing
But I'mshapeshiftingFeathers push from my skinI'm trickster (again)Bird of prey has moved in meLike a s.p.l.i.n.t.e.r
...and so forth, with the dramatic overload. Don't forget, this is after they sing about "energy rolls out of us on golden ponds of light."
So... yeah, it's a trip all right. But that's not a bad thing - I'm comparing them to Björk and Genesis, and their music is great. Radiohead's new album came out this weekend, and none do psychedelia any better than them. Usually, it's just a matter of giving them enough listens for the sound to grow on you. So why doesn't this album grow on me?
I think the answer is most evident when I look at the two tracks I like the best - "We Have Everything" and "Peripheral Visionaries". Honestly, I think what those two tracks have in common is very simple - in those, they actually sound like they're enjoying themselves.
I don't ask for all my songs to be about rainbows, and what's on the other side. But in angry metal, you can tell that they're having a good time being metal gods of rock. In angsty emo music, they're either ironically making fun of the world, or at least pretentious enough to feel good about themselves. And as a great bluesman once said, "You can have joy in your heart, and sing the blues about that. The blues don't have to be blue. They just need emotion."
But, I did manage to take a lesson out of this album. When I step up for poetry night this March, I'm not going to give the crowd poetry.
I'm going to give them emotion that rhymes.