Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 16/12
Explosions in the Sky
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Written by: DR on 10/08/2011 16:25:37
Explosions in the Sky have been one of the most consistent post-rock acts since around the turn-of-the-century. Part of the reason for this is they are undeniably skilled in the art, perhaps even pioneers of, gorgeous, cinematic post-rock. However, part of the reason for this is how, maybe with the exception of "The Rescue", they've stuck so rigidly to their tried and tested format throughout their career. Anybody who knows anything about Explosions in the Sky knows what they sound like.
Their penchant for glittering, intricate guitar-based instrumental soundscapes was established on their debut, "How Strange, Innocence", mastered with "The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place", and every release either before or since has had little room for experimentation (again, "The Rescue" possibly excused from this). Even if you haven't listened to them before, you can practically pick any song from their back-catalogue and get an idea of what they're all about, have always been about, and probably always will be.
Or will they?
Four years since "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone", and the band had promised "[Take Care] feels different than anything else we've done before". But, as it turns out, it's simply not. It's Explosions in the Sky as we expect, know and love. That is where "Take Care..." falls short, because if the band are unwilling to move on from previous records, then this has to be judged against those records. Quite frankly, it doesn't quite measure up; there are signs of tiredness creeping in to what was once a youthful and fresh sound.
Opener "Last Known Surroundings" is as nondescript as any beginning to an album of theirs yet. It's a tepid affair, lacking their famous magic guitar-work and climaxes, which does little to help draw the listener in to the following song, "Human Qualities". It's typical EITS, but it dials back the years: rolling drums, vivid melodies and a soaring crescendo. By executing what they do better than anyone, it serves as a reminder as to why this band is so adored. Track three, "Trembling Hands", is presumably supposed to be the centre-piece of the album, but it's nothing more than the final three minutes of any other of their songs sliced off, "oh, oh, oh" vocal samples added, and the result is awkward and misapplied.
"Be Comfortable, Creature" starts off promisingly, albeit typically, with a few extra effects added in, but it doesn't capitalise on that promise in the sense that it doesn't go anywhere of note; it's direction-less. Ten minute closer "Let Me Back In" briefly flirts with a quiet/loud dynamic, as this band have done so often in their career, giving the impression to the listener it's heading somewhere great, but any fires it lights disappointingly peter out into closing minutes of subdued instrumentation. Sitting right between these two, "Postcard From 1952", the best song on the album and a welcome throwback to the swelling-until-burst sound of "The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place", is an intoxicatingly splendid composition of gorgeous post-rock soundscapes.
"Take Care, Take Care, Take Care" is so distinctly Explosions in the Sky that even the weaker songs are beautifully constructed; it is as the same time underwhelming and delightful. There are vague outlines of new ideas that the careful listeners will find, like this band wanted to experiment but were too timid to ditch old habits, but those ideas are not close enough to being fully formed, which makes "Take Care..." nothing more than trademark Explosions in the Sky.
Download: Postcard From 1952, Human Qualities
For The Fans of: Um, it's Explosions in the Sky
Release Date 18.04.2011