Augustines, Augustines

Augustines, <i>Augustines</i>

Raise your hands high, people, and your heads, too; throw ’em back, eyes closed tight, with a look of blissful joy plastered across your face. Feel the heat of the lights on your face as they explode outwards from the stage, and the physical impact of the music as it slams against your chest, again and again.

Now yell along, loud as you can, not giving a damn who might be able to hear you — hell, you’re all here together, right? One giant mass of people, loving music and joy and beauty and that ineffable hook that hits in the exact right place in your gut (or is it your heart? it’s hard to tell), and none of you care about anything else.

All that, believe it or not, is what goes flashing through my head when I listen — and listen, and listen again — to Augustines’ new, self-titled album. Augustines is like the distillation of every damn anthemic rock band I’ve ever loved, and holy wow am I enjoying it. If I close my eyes, I can just about imagine myself in the scenario above, and yeah, I wish for all the world that it was suddenly real, that I could be magically transported in the middle of my day into the middle of that sweaty, friendly crowd, facing the stage as this one band right here takes flight.

And as I’m standing there, mouth wide open, they’ll blast into “Cruel City,” with its Arcade Fire-sized chorus, quasi-Afrobeat rhythms, rough-yet-tuneful vocals, playful marimba-sounding keys, and soaring, choral backing vocals, and yeah, I’ll throw my head back and howl along. The Augustines’ll segue into “Nothing To Lose But Your Head,” which is damn near even better, like “With or Without You”-era U2 except that it sounds like Mark Lanegan’s on the mic; the song is massive and stunning as all hell.

Drop down a little bit (but not much) for “Weary Eyes,” where suddenly I’m realizing that Augustines are like Coldplay’s kid brother, with all that epic, arms-wide-open feel but more grit and rough, raggedy edges. They immediately charge into “Don’t You Look Back” after, though, and I’m already revising my opinion: not Coldplay, not Arcade Fire, but Springsteen, and whoa, that’s one hell of a great, roar-along chorus.

At the mid-point, there’s “Walkabout,” which starts off fragile and somber, with only a piano and a cracking, yearning falsetto, but which then surges upwards into a thundering, galloping crescendo before collapsing back down like a firework that’s reached its apogee and is guttering out as it tumbles back to earth. “Kid You’re On Your Own” is Springsteenian again (or maybe Counting Crows’ Recovering the Satellites), all desperation and roots-rock glory, and that desperation continues on into “This Ain’t Me,” only now I’m thinking of The Killers more than anything else.

“Now You Are Free” is uplifting and warm-hearted, its hearty dose of introspection working its way into the heads of the audience and making us all feel weirdly self-conscious for a moment before the music catches us back up. Still, when frontman Eric Sanderson mutters “What am I running from? / What am I running from? / Myself and everyone,” it’s hard not to turn the same question-and-answer on ourselves.

The band gets quieter for the piano and vocals of “The Avenue,” and then the gorgeous, heady organ sound of “Highway 1 Interlude” keeps things low-key for a moment (in the best possible way). When Augustines launch into the impassioned, beautiful “Hold Onto Anything,” though, with its military cadence and Sanderson’s howls at the sky, yeah, we’re all back on our feet in a split-second. The man’s rough, scratched-up voice may not be perfect, it’s true, but he sure knows how to use it; it makes me think of Eric Bachmann’s solo stuff, and now that I think of it, so does the arrangement here.

And then it’s over. The lights come up, and we’re all blinking and smiling uncertainly in the brightness, quietly willing it all to start again, at least for a little while, before we accept that it’s done and start to make our way off into the night. And me? Yeah, I’m still sitting here, dearly wishing I was at that show right damn now.

[Augustines are playing 2/17/14 at the House of Blues, along with My Goodness.]
(Oxcart Records --; Augustines --; Augustines (Facebook) --; Augustines (Twitter) --; Augustines (Soundcloud) --; Augustines (YouTube) --; Augustines (Tumblr) --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Monday, February 17th, 2014. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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