Low Anthem - EYELAND - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Low Anthem - EYELAND

by Kevin Orton Rating:2 Release Date:2016-06-17

The Low Anthem’s Oh My God Charlie Darwin is one of my favorite records in the last 7 years or so. They’ve always been great live. Ben Knox Miller writes songs as solid as Stickley chairs. Among a wave of Americana Folk bands, they stood far from the mandolining crowd. None of the usual pretention or self-consciousness. They sounded shy, quirky and geniune.

2011’s Smart Flesh saw them branch out a bit. It was a looser, denser record, retaining the same qualities that made Charlie Darwin such an intimate delight. Eyeland sees them depart even further. Much further. After some ambient noodling, ‘In Eyeland’ begins in Miller’s familar hushed vocals. But its abundently clear, this is meant to be an "experimental" album. Sadly, self-conciously so. Nothing says "experimental" these days like a hokey drum machine. And they just can't get enough of it on Eyeland. As ‘Her Little Cosmos’ goes to show, gone is the homespun, hi-lonesome sound of Charlie Darwin. Miller duets with a dulcet chanteuse and the results are a clumsy mix of  60's Psyche bubblegum pastiche and 80's Synth Pop. I suppose its all meant ironically. But hardly novel. 

‘The Pepsi Moon’ is more like it. Spare, bedsit acoustic longing with some dreamy keyboards and yearning horns. Truly lovely track. Here any experimentation pays off.

Soon after we’re thrown into ‘Ozzie’. which sounds more like early Ween. Sure, they’re just goofing around in the studio. True, its little more than a sloppy novelty song about baseball's Ossie Smith. And yes, I think its meant to be adolescent. But let's face it, this is outtake, bootleg fare.

‘Waved the Neon Seaweed’ wanders into pretentious tone poem territory. A yawn when not grating. ‘Behind the Airport Mirror’ in contrast is a spare, biting piece of satire with its masturbating border guards behind the two way mirror. ‘In The Air Hockey Fire’ is also a pleasant bit of a lark. But neither are really all that substantive. Regrettably, two indulgent, meandering instrumentals follow and at this point, Eyeland dissolves into a complete wankfest. Just a couple of stoners twiddling the knobs for their own mindblown amusement.

That said, ‘Dreamkiller’ finds Ben Knox Miller in lonely man at the piano mode and it’s a welcome departure from the rest of Eyeland's corny antics. As beautiful a song as Miller has ever written. Putting the rest of the album to shame. One of the few pieces of driftwood to cling to in a sea of pointlessness self-indulgence.

‘The Circular Ruins of Eupio’ concludes the proceedings with more dull, pretentious atmospherics.

As a longtime supporter of the Low Anthem, I confess to feeling let down. Despite fleeting moments of arresting beauty, it sounds like they've been smoking too much weed and listening to the Swell Maps. I'm not against experimentation. Hey, I get why Lou Reed cut Metal Machine Music. I get why Alex Chilton cut the shambolic likes of  Like Flies On Sherbert. I love Bowie's Low and side 2 of 'Heroes'. I dig Scott Walker's Tilt and The Drift.  I love Suicide. I love some pretty "out there" stuff. But most of this isn't "out there". Its dull and self indulgent.  

I admire a band that seeks to break and defy its owns conventions, ironically or otherwise.  But given the talent this band has displayed in the past, the majority of this record is a complete rip off. Both Wilco and My Morning Jacket have had much success with this kind of genre defying turn. But most of the "experimentation" on Eyeland  is just an amateurish, indulgent mess.  

I won't give up on this band, but with a couple of exceptions, I'm going to sit this enning out.

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