Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Explosions in the Sky: Take Care, Take Care, Take Care review
I've been holding back on writing a review of Take Care, Take Care, Take Care because I just feel churlish and a pedant for not liking it. Largely, I was of the opinion that it was a bunch of meandering pap and a pretty weak Explosions record. Having a couple of more listens, I've softened on that somewhat but I think it is far from their best. While I think there are a few good tracks, there is nothing here that really moves me or makes me love it - it just doesn't sing to me.
In the realms of 'post-rock', I'm more of a Mogwai man than an Explosions man. I tend to think the Scots balance the beauty, muscularity and experimentation of the genre in more interesting ways than Explosions. That's not to say Explosions haven't produced some exceptional music, the best of which I would contend is The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (which sounds extra beautiful on vinyl).
For any longer piece of music, it often relies on repetition, light and shade and I guess this is my problem with the album. To pull off ten minutes of endless repetition in post rock, you need to have rock solid hooks, interesting digressions or melodies that rise and fall but make the listener join the journey the band is taking (btw to pull off ten minutes of endless repetition in electronic music you just need drugs). To be honest, I find the material here lacks that essential hook and I find myself drifting off rather than listening to the music.
At this point, I think it's easier for me to go through it track by track to let you know why I'm struggling. Things start well with Last Known Surroundings, a song which grows on you after a few listens and has enough bombast and sonic textures to make you love it. The problem here is that the next two songs do nothing for me whatsoever. Human Qualities meanders aimlessly until the big release at the seven minute mark but by then it's too late to make the song interesting. This is followed by Trembling Hands which I thought was ok until I heard it in the context of the album - it just doesn't fit and is annoying. It seems to me it is a song the band would love playing live but is less enjoyable for the audience (a common problem - look how much fun these guys are having - too bad the song sounds like shit to the crowd). The song is just ok to my ears but contextually it is all wrong.
I think the strongest song here is Be Comfortable, Creature as it has a hypnotic riff that recalls their earlier work. In particular, this song features some exquisite guitar tones that soar across the last couple of minutes of the tune. Postcard From 1952 suffers a similar fate to Human Qualities, a big rock ending without an engaging build up is of no use to me. The final song (Let Me Back In) starts quiet, goes loud, ends quiet but ultimately does nothing. All three of the last songs have similar descending riffs throughout but Be Comfortable, Creature is the only one that sticks with you - the rest don't grab you as they should.
There is no denying the complexity of the songwriting nor passion of the band in these songs but it hasn't translated into a memorable listening experience. There is some joy to be found on the record but it is not their strongest suite of music - it is a passable entry into the Explosions discography. This is sad to me because it's an album I wanted to love and be excited by - I hope I'm wrong from these early listens and maybe time will change my mind (especially considering the packaging for the vinyl edition - sweet. Yes, I am that shallow).