I was excited to have the new Cymbals Eat Guitars album, “Pretty Years,” slide across my desk this week — their last release, 2014’s “LOSE,” left me ravenous for new material from them as soon as I was finished with it, with the hints of revival emo ingrained into it from songs about reminiscing over a friend’s death.
The band has always had a sum greater sound than the bands predating them.
Their first album, “Why There Are Mountains,” has found its way into my CD player at least once a week since I first heard it in the fall of 2009.
It was an album that came at the tail end of a decade that labeled anything that deviated from Top 40 radio as “indie rock,” and while it sounded like a release that pulled influences from the heart of 1980s college radio, sonically it was something completely different — like standing up to a wall of sound that only made sense if the volume was turned all the way up. It was loud, it was gritty, it was unapologetically trying to make sense of the teenage angst of the 2000s, and it struck me on many levels.
I was 17 years old at its release, overly romantic and hellbent on standing outside of someone’s window with a boombox, a la “Say Anything.”
The lyrics talked about being lost and surrounded by mail-order tobacciana gifts that the singer’s dad spent a fair part of the 90s and his lung health saving up to buy.
The band’s frontman, Joseph D’Agostino, touches on those glazed over memories again in the third track of the new release, “Wish,” a piece that sounds like a classic Springsteen track, including a saxophone solo that sounds positively like Clarence Clemons being plucked from Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” album, with lyrics that matched what I was doing at 17.
Track number seven, “Beam,” is a screamer in both pace and sound, with overtones of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” It is the strongest track on the album, and I would contend it shows the overall progress of their sound progression over four albums.
With “Wish” and “4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” echoing Springsteen, it’s possibly the sign of the band maturing the sound of their first release over the better part of the last decade. Instead of taking the path that deviated them from their original form on 2011’s progressive “Lenses Alien,” a sophomore release that maintained the gritty attitude of their first album while moving towards a more progressive sound.
The album ages like a fine firecracker. The first couple of tracks are the fuse being lit, and the sound really explodes for the tail end of the album, which absolutely requires a large set of speakers so the rest of your apartment block knows what you’re listening to.
Tracks like the last two, “Well” and “Shrine,” cement their place not into a race for album of the year, but for the strongest expansion of a band’s sound over their career.
The album is a great example of what a band’s evolution in sound should be over the course of more than half a decade after deviating from their norm and then coming back toward it.
Go listen to this album, and then listen to their back catalog if this is your first exposure to them, as they have most certainly left their signature on rock ‘n’ roll for the future to come.
As always, lodge your complaints to me at email@example.com, and drag your day across the finish line by listening to “THE CHECKERED FLAG” on KTRM 88.7 the Edge, 4-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
This article appeared in the Sept. 22 issue of the Index.