Wednesday, November 02, 2016
Pelican -- The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw
This is one of the reviews I thought would be long, but I think will actually be short.
In the mid-00's, when all of the millennials started crowding in on my haunts, I started hearing a shocking, jarringly positive point-of-view. My Generation X brethren and I, if pushed to give our opinion on everything, would generally say, "Everything Sucks." Indeed, as my favorite late 80's to mid-90's t-shirt said "Nothing Is Cool." However, millennials had a vastly different take on life, which is this: "Everything Is Amazing." Indeed, "amazing," a word I had rarely heard outside of a classic funeral hymn, suddenly became the description for everything. "This is amazing," said millennials. "That is amazing." Most annoying to me, if any album by a band or musician displayed the most minute quantity of competence, some millennial was going to say it was "amazing." On their new mode of communication, Facebook: "Weezer's Green Album is amazing." I'll get to "W" soon enough, but rest assured, Weezer's Green Album is not amazing. In fact, very few things in life are literally amazing.
Nevermind, this review isn't going to be that short.
Instrumental rock, labelled "post-rock" by unimaginative music critics, really took off in the mid-00's, with that genre of band becoming a dime-a-dozen, and few creatively standing out. Of course, to many millennials (Hey, millennials, I love you, please don't take offense to my ramblings), almost all of the instrumental rock albums released during this period were "amazing."
I think there certainly are some very good instrumental rock albums from that time period, but I would refer to very few of them as "great," let alone that word I keep hammering away on. I was a pretty big fan of Pelican's The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw, though.
The Fire In Our Throats... is a bit reminiscent of the band Isis' work, with some deep, crushing riffs, following minutes and minutes of build-up. The musical difference here (beside the lack of vocals) is mainly mood, as the dominating feeling in this music is "triumphant." The rhythm is also quite less complex, often simple and driving.
At the time of its release, I really enjoyed the blending of the heaviness with that triumphant feeling, which set Pelican apart from their peers. I also enjoyed the acoustic breaks, which I felt gave the album a bit of atmosphere. Before coming back to The Fire In Our Throats... for this review, after several years without a listen, I wondered if I would be handing out a ten. I won't be.
This is a good album with some great moments, but it also has several flaws which keep it from the top. First and foremost is the lack of sophistication in the guitar tones, the way the bass and drums are overwhelmed by them to the point that they almost seem unnecessary. Some variation in the sounds of the band's dueling guitars would add more depth to the crescendos, and give those victorious climaxes a lot more staying power, even if it would make them a little less loud. Then again, the simplicity of the drums almost demands that they be overwhelmed. There's a heck of a lot of, "See drum, hit drum," playing here, a primitive bass/snare/bass/snare/while smashing crash cymbal repetitiveness that really grates on the ear at select moments, and begs for complexity.
With those complaints out of the way, though, the songwriting here is great, with some genuinely well-written build-ups and pay-offs, some nice left-field tempo turns, and the aforementioned cool acoustic moments.
So in 2016, while I still enjoy this album, I'm not loving it. I search for the moments I thought were so strong, and I can't quite find them. I didn't quite act like a millennial on my first listens to this album...I never called it "amazing" (I'm not sure I've ever called anything "amazing."). On the contrary, I think this is just the kind of album where the strengths are initially far easier to notice than the weaknesses, but one in which the weaknesses standout more on repeat listens.
The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw is quite good, but it isn't...well, you get the point by now. I guess you can go back to Netflixing things and DM'ing people on Instagram, or whatever it is you guys do. I'm going to order some pizza on my landline and watch my cable TV.
2005 Hydra Head Records
1. Last Day of Winter 9:37
2. Autumn Into Summer 10:44
3. March to the Sea 11:38
4. • 4:44
5. Red Ran Amber 11:20
6. Aurora Borealis 4:55
7. Sirius 5:47