Cymbals Eat Guitars, lenses alien

Cymbals Eat Guitars, lenses alien

I’ve got to hand it to Cymbals Eat Guitars: I was fished-in right from the start of lenses alien, the Staten Island quartet’s latest full-length. The band makes me think of that sadly short-lived period where bands got crazy merging weirdly detuned/bent, post-rock guitars with irresistibly sneaky melodies, blasts of unexpected distortion and noise, and grad-school lyricism, and that particular era of mid-tempo indie-rock is a place my black little music-critic heart still calls home and wishes it could go back to.

So thanks to the CEG guys for that, because about ten seconds into “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name),” I feel like I’m listening to a crossbreed between Vee Vee-era Archers of Loaf and Ain’t My Lookout-era Grifters, with messy-yet-coherent guitars, proggy rhythms, and subtle melodies that all collapse into a wall of shuddering noise before slowly coalescing back together again (and seriously, listen to the warped guitar line and Joseph D’Agostino’s half-bellowed vocals and tell me you don’t hear Eric Bachmann in there). The damn song nearly comes off like three all mashed into one, even diving towards Jane’s Addiction territory before swerving back into Grifters-land.

Second track “Shore Points” changes things up significantly, much more overtly poppy with its brightly chiming guitars and the nicely understated piano and vocals that (at the start, at least) lend things an almost Ben Folds Five feel. “Keep Me Waiting” catches you off-guard with a side punch, then, all bouncy, fierce Superchunk-esque guitars, snarled, sarcastic vocals, and what sounds like the screeching of a train. Then there’s “Plainclothes,” a bumping, danceable track that steps deftly between frantic, desperate fury and more thoughtful, quietly-treading softness and which reminds me awesomely of The Dismemberment Plan.

From there the band (which is D’Agostino, bassist Matt Whipple, drummer Matthew Miller, and keyboardist Brian Hamilton) just barrels onward, rambling through the watery, Archers-y “Definite Darkness” and the jangly, unassuming-yet-confident “Another Tunguska” before hitting a definite high note with “The Current,” which kicks off with an excellent, amp-lit-on-fire guitar sound and then shifts into a beautifully thoughtful Eastern Sea-/Bright Eyes-like track. Near the album’s end, there’s “Secret Family,” which is furious and expansive, with alternately blistering, roaring guitar bombast and careful, methodical prog-rock bits jabbing through.

I don’t mean to point to these guys and shrug and say, “yeah, they sound like a lot of those old indie-rock touchstones; so what?”, by the by. Cymbals Eat Guitars do a freaking awesome job of digesting all those influences and sounds and reassembling them together in a way that lets you listen and say, “hey, doesn’t that sound like…?” but still feel like you’re witnessing something that’s all brand new.

The proof, of course, is in the pudding, and in this case that’s the fact that I’ve been listening to lenses alien on repeat about six times straight through, and I still don’t want to stop. Cymbals Eat Guitars, y’all are crafty, crafty bastards.

(Feature photo by Josh Goleman.)

[Cymbals Eat Guitars is playing 9/30/11 at Fitzgerald’s, along with Hooray For Earth.]
(Barsuk Records -- P.O. Box 22546, Seattle, WA. 98122; http://www.barsuk.com/; Cymbals Eat Guitars -- http://cymbalseatguitars.com/; Cymbals Eat Guitars (Facebook) -- http://www.facebook.com/cymbalseatguitars)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, September 30th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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2 Responses to “Cymbals Eat Guitars, lenses alien

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: the last place you look + Cymbals Eat Guitars (Rev’d!) + Buxton + The Soldier Thread + More on September 30th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    […] I’ll admit to being a newcomer to CEG, but I’ve been listening nearly nonstop to their new album, lenses alien, for a few days now, and holy shit is it good — it grabs onto nearly every ’90s indie-rock influence I adore, from Archers of Loaf to the Grifters to Superchunk to The Dismemberment Plan, chews it all up, and spits it right back into your hand as something weird and glistening and new and incredible. Freaking great. Full review here. […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Cursive + Cymbals Eat Guitars + Dick Dale + John Lefler + Balance and Composure + More on April 13th, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    […] I’m relatively new to tourmates Cymbals Eat Guitars, but after hearing last year’s Lenses Alien, I was bowled over in a fairly big way. CEG and Cursive together makes perfect sense, considering, […]

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