The Silent Years – The Globe [Album]


Originally published at Sonic Dice, November 2009.

With some bands, eclecticism is their prerogative. The Arcade Fire, Florence + the Machine, Mercury Rev, Super Furry Animals. Coincidentally, these are just some of the bands that The Silent Years sound like a watered-down version of; it’s best to get it out of the way early, there isn’t much original about their first album The Globe.

There are two main criticisms that can be levelled at this album, the second twice as significant as the first. Initially, the simple fact is that The Globe is too long to effectively hold the attention; all the places where it would’ve benefitted from being concise are overlong and overthought. At thirteen tracks (with three bonus tracks pushing the album well over the hour mark) it’s a bit ponderous and hard work to get through. The largely vague, noodling compositions on offer here will struggle to carry the casual listener all the way through. In short – words The Silent Years’ main man Josh Epstein apparently is unfamiliar with – it’s a chore rather than a pleasure to sit down and listen to this album in its entirety. We’ll return to that other criticism in due course.

Out into the Wild begins the record with cavernous distortion and galloping drums, ornate baroque piano lines skipping and pirouetting across it. Quickly getting lost in its own intricacies however, Out into the Wild eschews the direct and forceful approach of its drumming to wander, indulging itself in vocal loops. The album’s highlight comes mercifully quickly, but mercilessly rips off Fleet Foxes in the process. On Our Way Home, despite the redundancy of its repeated title lyric stops off in some gorgeous scenery, for the most part sad and acoustic. “On our way home, we buried all our photo albums; everyone we’ve ever known was in ‘em,” Epstein maligns, before the track eventually explodes in a supernova of electric guitar and cymbals, drowning the singer in a hailstorm. Climb on my Back bravely tries to offer an alternative in full-on pop, but the falsetto singing and wah-wah guitar in the chorus slips inevitably into annoyance. The lyrics are cod-philosophical, more towards the Kaiser Chiefs than the Modest Mouse end of the market. “Now I feel like I’m the Overman that Dostoevsky wrote about”; yeah, alright fella, enough of that cheers. I read books too.

Black Hole tries to reconjure the intimate atmosphere of On Our Way Home whilst mercenarily nicking the central idea from Modest Mouse’s Dark Center of the Universe. The lyrics are far too wordy, any sense of metre lost in the multisyllabic hubbub, backed by largely sparse and simple music. The drumming however is consistently excellent, and it has been procured a noticeably prominent place in the mix, sounding powerful, assured and inventive. Ryan Clancy pounds away in tribal style at the beginning of Ropes while Epstein rambles on about amputation and a single high-pitched piano key is struck repeatedly and a cartoonish breakdown comes through a tunnel previously painted on a wall. Know Your Place sees the rhythm section locked in a grim tango, Clancy and bassist Mike Majewski hurling each other around whilst the other instruments sound airy and superfluous all about them. Eventually, the layers double and treble until it eventually feels like the listener is wading through porridge to get to the end of the track.

Apart from that, there’s very little else to comment upon. The Sun is Alive is anything but lively, it’s a none-event. Goddamn You is a Neon Bible-era Arcade Fire rip-off complete with church organ. The Axiom is the clearest Mercury Rev takeoff, with the singer sounding a lot like Jonathan Donahue and the instrumentation generally aping Opus 40 from Deserter’s Songs. It must be reiterated at this point that The Globe is no Deserter’s Songs.

So anyway, the second criticism much graver than the first was actually mentioned at the outset. The Globe just isn’t very original or interesting. The bands you’d have to make a conscious effort to step over in order to pursue The Silent Years just doesn’t bear thinking about. You may view this as an unfair line of reasoning, but ask yourself; why would anybody listen to a band that sound like an inferior version of another band, precisely because they are not that second band? For a start, you could instead listen to Florence + the Machine, who sound like they’ve been found playing on toadstools on a woodland glade with autumnal sun low in the sky. Whatever Lungs’ shortcomings, it’s a bewitching listen and far less arduous than The Globe. Meanwhile The Arcade Fire are introspective despite their rousingly layered music and inhabit a novelistic world of carnivalistic inversion. The Globe is totally anonymous compared to Funeral, devoid of the personality a record of this ilk requires. Although it’d be incredibly surprising if The Silent Years have ever heard anything by them, Super Furry Animals are famously magpieish in their approach to music making. They sound like nothing else on earth, and The Silent Years can only aspire to this. Finally there’s Mercury Rev, who’ve got this trippy sub-sub-genre of music down to a fine art. The Silent Years have nowhere near the tunes of MR; there’s no Goddess On A Hiway, or even Senses On Fire. And as for the instantly-memorable The Dark is Rising… well no, there’s nothing like that here, so move along.

4 out of 10.

Sonic Dice score: 3 out of 6

Gift Music
The Silent Years on Myspace
The Silent Years on Last.fm

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