Cymbals Eat Guitars aren't sure what they want to be when they grow up. On Why There Are Mountains, they're throwing a mix of influences and ideas into a blender. Caprice rules as they flit from one thing to another: one moment, it's Stephen Malkmus and Pavement; the next, they're looking to Wilco, or maybe something more progressive rock.
The lead off song, And the Hazy Sea, sets this stage. It kicks off like the climax of something by And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead. Then it settles into indie alt-rock groove. The verse vocals kick in as an homage to Stephen Malkmus and Pavement. The song rolls out effortlessly, shifting mood and direction. We roll around a track: prog-rock noise to indie rock to thoughtful reflection and back again. The end devolves into decaying waves of feedback cacophony. This could be the only song on the album and I'd be happy.
But there's more...
Indiana starts with swells of sound, built until, in a moment stolen from Wilco (the end of Poor Places from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), the song truly begins. The vocals and chord changes invent a poppy incarnation of the Cure. Amazing.
Shorter songs split up the longer, epic pieces. The rapid shifts (both between and within songs) keep things interesting, although it probably drives some people crazy. The long, sweeping songs tend to handle the ambiguity the best. Give a listen to the Adrian Belew influenced guitar sound of Like Blood Does or the surprising scope of Share: It starts out simple and mellow, then it's buried beneath a wall of thundering, distorted guitars. Cathartic and straining at the leash, it finally feels like it's running down. But there's still more than a minute and a half left, so it drives into power pop to close it out. Of course.
It's hard to pick a suitable beverage for this one. All the odd mixes I can think of are much less palatable than this. How about a Belgian lambic, where the brewer's unique character is always a little bit of a surprise?
Cymbals Eat Guitars are touring with Freelance Whales and I'm excited to see them in Denver on April 1. I'll let you know how the live experience measures up.