Sunday, February 25, 2007

Surprises and disappointments, starring Jesu and Explosions in the Sky

There are two kinds of music fans -- people who treat their favourite bands like their favourite sports teams, and those that don't*. Both groups root for their bands to keep releasing great albums, but the differences arise when they fail to do so. Let's say you root for a band and then one day they spit out the musical equivalent of signing Gil Meche for 50 million dollars. What do you do? If you're a Kansas City Royals fan, you have to convince yourself that it's OK, they're still your team and you love them no matter what. But as a music fan, you're not obligated to continue your support.

Take Jesu. I was never a big Justin Broadrick fan. The next thing I knew, he was blowing me away with a brilliant album ("Jesu") and an even better EP ("Silver"). On the latter release, he perfected the industrial-shoegaze-metal genre, which we all agree has the potential to be the greatest genre in the history of music. The man was on a serious roll and making the best music of his career, so of course I had high hopes for the quick follow-up "Conqueror". But what's this? Decipherable lyrics? Decidedly un-dense guitar lines? Quicker, non-sludgy tempos? "Conqueror" sounds like a more ordinary brand of doom-metal -- certainly not a bad thing in and of itself, but not what I'd come to expect and hope for from a new Jesu album.

Concerning Explosions in the Sky, it really didn't matter to me at all if they put out good music at this point. I'm rarely in the mood for extended post rock symphonies these days (Godspeed burnout, or something) so their ability or lack thereof to create listenable music is a non issue for me now. But I'll be damned -- "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone" is sensational stuff, like the first triumphant fifteen minutes of the aforementioned GYBE's "Levez Vos Skinny Fists ..." (the best 15 minutes of their career on record), complete with celebratory, almost cheery, major key melodies. Naturally, the usual quiet/loud pattern is featured here, but they made the album short enough (just over 40 minutes) to say what they needed to say before the shtick gets boring. After skimping on the uber-depressive clangs of imminent doom and lightening the mood considerably, I find myself wanting to hear the album again and again, as opposed to their other records where I feel I've gotten the point after one or two listens.

* yes, I know that lots of people exhibit traits of both groups, depending on which band they're dealing with. I'm writing something here.

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