Sophomore Success – Cymbals Eat Guitars eats expectation


Lenses Alien

Cymbals Eat Guitars

Release Date: Aug 30, 11

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These days, you can shake a stick here in New York and hit an indie band that is reaching back to the late 90s for everything from sonic influence to mode of dress and stage presence. And there’s good reason for that: the 90s were good.

So it’s no surprise that NY/NJ-based Cymbals Eat Guitars have put out their second record, Lenses Alien, that reaches into this bag of post-flannel tricks. That’s supposed to be a compliment. Let me explain.

Bands can go one of two ways if they’re to play the way-back game and pull influences unabashedly; please, all other bands take note, let your references be good references. The prominence of Built To Spill’s atmospheric guitar-noodling is a welcome trip in the Delorean of my ears at any time. Next up, if your lyrics are going to be flagrantly personal, make them so much so that I have no clue what you’re talking about (I’m looking at you, “Wavelengths,” which kicks off with the lyrics “This contusion-colored evening/maybe you paint the silhouette/of the gaunt tree line singed in ’97.” I’m sorry, what?)

And finally, if you’re going to follow up your anthemic freshman album with a downright metaphysical 10-tracks worth of ethereal noise-play, then do it all the way. Fortunately, this is exactly what Cymbals Eat Guitars has done.

From the eight and a half minute long opener, “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name),” we see what this follow-up album is all about. It plunks along in time signatures that other bands don’t understand and its melodies devolve, change direction, and morph through at least four distinct parts. All while holding your attention. This is Cymbals Eat Guitars taking a risk. This is Cymbals Eat Guitars succeeding most of the time (they lost me on the mostly acoustic and downright strange “Wavelengths”). Dark, not-quite demonic, bordering on noise rock but staying to the left-pop side of Mogwai’s center, Lenses Alien is a successful sophomore experiment. And what else do you want from something that very much could have been a sophomore slump?