Published Sep 16, 2016Cymbals Eat Guitars debuted in 2009 with comparisons to Modest Mouse and Built To Spill; last year, they recorded with Brand New's Jesse Lacey for a split with Kevin Devine. Their new album, produced by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Cloud Nothings), incorporates all of that and some E-Street Band swagger and some big tent indie pop bombast. Almost inexplicably, it all makes sense.
Singer Joseph D'Agostino is capable of an Isaac Brock yelp, a Johnny Rotten snarl or even a crooning falsetto that'd make Thom Yorke proud. However, it's the belted bittersweet choruses of "Have a Heart" and "Dancing Days" that'll win over new fans with earnest emotionality that cuts straight for your heartstrings.
The funky sax on "Wish" adds not only a gritty textural character but also embodies a narrative one, punctuating every line conversationally with the notable exception of "11 months and not a word from you." The muting of the sax after that line hammers home the empty, lonely feeling in a song about the loss of friends and things left unsaid. The hooky bombast of the chorus juxtaposes ironically with this lyrical angst in a move that'd definitely make Springsteen proud.
"Close" has an emotive post-punk build that'd fit into Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, with lyrics about trying to let go of anxiety about a relationship: "It's as much of a declaration of love as I'll ever muster." On "Have a Heart," D'Agostino reminisces about being "young and evil" and how "apathy came naturally" in a coming-of-age anthem that's more about critical examination of your own emotional development (or stuntedness) than simple nostalgia.
This record's varied influences are held together by the mastery of both D'Agostino's songwriting and Congleton's production. It's unpredictable but immensely rewarding. (Sinderlyn)