With a crash and a bang, the boys are back
The four members of Cymbals Eat Guitars hunkered down in the basement of bassist Matt Whipple’s New Jersey home to record Lenses Alien, the group’s latest effort. It seems fitting, then, that there’s a certain restlessness to many of the tracks, almost as if it’s a score to the life of young suburbanites growing impatient behind their picket fences. Conscious suburban unrest or not, one thing about Lenses Alien is for sure: a sophomore slump it isn’t. Frontman Joseph D’Agostino and his crew have kicked it up a notch. The distortion and feedback from the group’s 2009 debut Why There Are Mountains is still there, but where their effects could once be neatly filed under “ambient,” the result now is more frantic—even, you could say, angrier—on much of the album.
The band digs right into the style during much of opener “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name).” Clocking in right around the eight-and-a-half minute mark, the song is about twice as long as most of the other tracks on the album. It’s also about twice as dynamic, as the band uses the song to set the tone for the following nine tracks. There’s plenty of the good old thrashing-out-chords that pops up later (on the rowdy “Secret Family” and “Keep Me Waiting”), in addition to a lull to an uneasy near-silence (foreshadowing for deep tracks “The Current” and “Wavelengths”) and a cacophony of fuzzed-out guitars and slow, descending piano scales.
While the group keeps things interesting by switching up the sound (often every few bars), the trick can sometimes have a muddying effect. Energy stays high—the most notable exception being the lackluster wanna-be anthem “Definite Darkness”—but songs jump between tones and tempos almost too quickly in many places. Out in the suburbs, the Cymbals Eat Guitars boys had plenty of room to stretch their legs and creative muscles, but it would have done some good for them to have been reigned back in, even if a little.