Friday, May 1, 2015
Ceremony : "The L-Shaped Man"
The California band's new album takes such a sharp turn away from the sound they had on "Zoo" that I had to google the band and make sure this was the same band, not just once but twice. I thought well made their Wiki page is wrong after all their are two bands called Ceremony, so I checked Matador's page for their bio to be sure and even the bio admitted they were taking on a sound ore along the lines of Wire. While the post-punk elements made the band's take on punk more interesting they didn't have to go throw the baby out with the bath water on this one. This almost sounds like an Interpol album. The vocals are a huge change, taking on the dead pan new wave monotone that is more sun than shouted. The aggression is now a depressed apathy. The guitar have a clean jangle with rare traces of distortion .
So this review is difficult for me, because if this was a new band's debut album or even the other Ceremony I would instantly like it , but since all the balls have been taken out of the equation the shock is taking some time to wear off before I can objectively listen to the last time I remember being so puzzled by this kind of a transformation, would have been as a kid listening to Motley Crue's "Theater of Pain" album after they had already put out two metal albums. In Motley Crue's case it was clear cut selling out . They took the edge off and wrote a power ballad or two. Here I don't think this is selling out though if those accusations fly I will under stand them. This is a more accessible sound. Was it calculated? Was it a marketing move ? If it was they did it in the most classy way possible. These songs are well written.
The drumming is dumbed down a little and after playing more explosively holding back like this most be hard, as I know most drummers would be bored having to play in such a straight forward fashion. The opener has perhaps the most creative drumming on the album. Like with most post-punk the bass dominates and carries the song while the guitar mainly serves as a point of accent. But he is the only one who is suffering because every one else has more room to play around with. Something can be said for serving the song. Some of the layered guitars bring a slight Rolling Stones like phrasing to the more rock n roll feel of "the Separation". At times they hang on a more repetitious drone. The vocals reclaim some aggression on "Root of the World" which is the best middle ground between their old sound and new sound and might have been better served as a opener to soften a blow a little and warm you up for what was to come. There is a little punk left in the bass line to " the Party" the are just drifting into a similar Joy Division worship typical for modern post-punk.
I took my second run through of this album, to be free enough of the shock for "Bleeder" to hit me. The guitar tones on this album are great once you get past the fact this is not punk. "Your Life in France" didn't have the same impact even though the drums are beaten a little harder here. I like the bass line to "Your Life in America" the rest of the instruments shamble from their languor to collapse around it. Even after another listen "the Listen" comes across as almost too up beat for me, not every one might in this way. The guitar provides a decent enough sense of movement , but this could almost be the Strokes. This stylistic change works better for them on "the Bridge" even with the oddly overdubbed guitars. The guitars take moodier turn towards a more Lou Reed like place on the closing on "The Understanding".
They didn't dial it in this time, they changed the station. I am really interested to hear what other long time fans of this band think about this album or have they all moved onto this sort of thing as well. I normally like this sort of thing, and I don't dislike it here, I just think this album could have stood to have had a little less of an identity crisis , but with that said there is still some great songwriting at work.I'll give it an 8.5 which is well worth a listen and I'm going to throw it on the ole iPod and see how it grows on me.