Pressed so loud that I literally jumped out of my skin when it started playing, this is the latest album from the formerly interesting indie rockers continues their run towards mainstream rock with belched, vomited vocals over friendly indie rock guitars and synths that don't get let you think too hard. Strangely Springsteen - perhaps this ambitious album could set them free?
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I’ve been fond of Cymbals Eat Guitars and their high-magnitude, over-feeling indie rock ever since I listened to ‘LOSE’ for a solid month of feeling shit, essentially making them the soundtrack to a time I live to forget. I know they’re not perfect, but to quote Marge Simpson, who is in this workaday world? Their bracingly loud, proudly ugly arena indie is only a drag insofar as the things it describes is. Their snarling weirdass and overstretched approach to pop music makes for a realistic illustration of heartbreak: sad, yes, but also cloying and boring, like a long stay in a dentist’s waiting room.
‘Pretty Years’ is a lot more synth and Springsteen than ‘LOSE’, and its sprawl is more unfolding than self-contained, with these songs lasting less long but carrying weirder and more unexpected trajectories: freeforming saxophone and Future Islands level growling on “Wish”, sparkling synth on “Dancing Days” and a cinematic ballad on “Mallwalking”. Overall, though, it seems to be a continuation of the fevered feelings of their last record, detailing goodbyes and estrangements with the same treatment of mundane and massive. “Dancing Days” dives off the board in its chorus to try and get away from its plodding, inertia-filled verses, Joseph D’Agnostino shaking off his new tricks by screaming “goodbye!” with the same galloping dread as on old tunes like “Laramie”.
As always, the stories D’Agnostino songs are in love with the format they’re presented in: on their last record he was making catchy, fractured indie rock tunes while referencing the band’s that inspired him (mostly just the Wrens, over and over again). On this record he sings about hanging out with Teen Suicide and Alex G, in a move that would be almost unbearably Mark Kozelek Has Brunch With Ben Gibbard if it didn’t feel so moving within the song: it’s on “4th of July”, a song about having friends but feeling out of place, removed from the circle by your own brain (choice cuts: “don’t really know these kids” and “can’t make it matter / my life is floating by”). Listening to this track it becomes obvious that no indie rock band can really do what CeG do with their noisy patchwork pop: their music sounds like the anxiety it talks about, but it also turns it into anthem.
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