New Yorkers, Cymbals Eat Guitars have returned with their fourth album of their 7 year career- ‘Pretty Years’. Known not only for having one of the coolest band names in alternative music today (the name deriving from a Lou Reed quote about one of The Velvet Underground’s albums), Cymbals Eat Guitars are also known for their huge, immersive and explosive sound.
Previous album ‘LOSE’ from 2014 witnessed Cymbals Eat Guitars explore much darker themes, with a heavier more aggressive sound heard throughout that L.P. With ‘Pretty Years’ the dark themes are still present within the tracks but some lighter sounds and thoughts have been allowed to permeate this release. Both of these albums have been shaped by the trauma and heartbreak of the death of a close friend of lead singer Joseph D’Agostino. Whilst ‘LOSE’ focused on the immediate pain, shock and anger of this devastating event, ‘Pretty Years’ instead witnesses the progression of grief and deals with the importance and value of being alive but also concerns the idea of never forgetting and missing this loved one.
Although it is arguable that ‘LOSE’ was a more exciting and raw album than this release, ‘Pretty Years’ still possesses Cymbals Eat Guitars trademark huge booming, sweeping choruses and wide variety of instruments, styles and sounds. Third track ‘Wish’ is evidence of this, with the band electing to incorporate a strong saxophone section in this track. Although dependent on taste, this track can be digested as a misstep in the overall sound of the album, perhaps it can even be accused of sounding somewhat outdated. Having said that, the album has a certain 80’s inspired vibe and other musical choices work better than on ‘Wish’. The excellent use of synthesizer in a couple of the tracks on ‘Pretty Years’ is incredibly satisfying at times. ‘Mallwallking’ and ‘Finally’ particularly highlights the delicate electronic accompaniments utilized expertly alongside the conventional looping, chugging guitar lines.
D’Agostino’s familiar strained vocal drawl is still as impressive and infectious as ever and his familiar verbose lyrical style still takes pride of place in the tracks on ‘Pretty Years’. A look at just a few lines in ‘WELL’ identifies the darkness and sadness seen in this album ‘Think I need help/Wanna get well’ identifies this feeling of loss and introspection put across on this album. Similarly closing track ‘Shrine’s’ title alone delivers the idea of loss and memory, whereas tracks like ‘Beam’ and ‘Dancing Days’ really align with the overall mentality of this album, as has been mentioned, that of hope and the importance of being alive. The energetic and powerful nature that lives in Cymbals Eat Guitars is evidenced in the two monumental tracks of the album, track one ‘Finally’ and six – ‘4TH July Philadelphia (SANDY)’. These two tracks stand out and encompass everything the New Yorkers are about as a modern day alternative rock band. Although ‘Pretty Years’ probably does not quite live up to previous album ‘LOSE’ in terms of cohesion and raw energetic rock, it still displays all the signatures that make Cymbals Eat Guitars such an engaging band; variation in genre and sound, distinctive vocals, huge engaging choruses, and enthralling catchy tracks.
‘Pretty Years’ is out now via Sinderlyn Records
This Cymbals Eat Guitars article was written by Max Litchfield, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo by Shervin Lainez