Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE
A few years ago I gave up on trying to be anything but an indie rock kid. It was hard to quit pretending that I really listened to everything when really all I wanted to listen to was people banging out chords on guitars singing simple, heartfelt songs. After leaving KJHK, where I felt it was important to paint myself as someone who loved all types of music, I went into a deep hibernation of 1990s alternative rock. I listened to the Lemonheads and Superchunk incessantly in addition to combing through the darker recesses of Guided by Voices’ back catalog. It was so fundamentally necessary to unwind from almost four years of playing tastemaker. It’s embarrassing that I even think of it like that, but that’s how I approached my job at the station and when it was all over and the mask fell off, I accepted myself for what I was: Someone with boring taste. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate all different types of music, it’s just when I instinctively reach for something to put on in the car or in my headphones I go for the same sort of stuff. Some is punkier, some is poppier, some is folkier, but it’s all a variation of my beloved indie rock and roll.
When I put on the new Cymbals Eat Guitars record I was just looking for something pleasant to have on in the background. I remembered enjoying their first record—Why There Are Mountains—when it came through KJHK, but couldn’t remember anything but a line about Natural American Spirits from the one song (“Wind Phoenix”) I listened to on repeat. They released a follow-up in 2011 that I totally missed. The last I heard from them they were doing an episode of the AV Club’s Undercover series in which they covered Superchunk’s “Detroit Has a Skyline.” Which is ultimately what caused me to take a chance on LOSE, which ended up being one of the most surprising and enjoyable records I’ve heard all year.
All the indie rock elements are there, but the Staten Island quartet arranges them in such a way and bends generic conventions is a refreshing treat. The first three tracks go from emotionally charged slowburner to a reverb drenched 80s alt-rock throwback to a propulsive, harmonica heavy folk-tinged stomper. It’s an excellent place setting that keeps the listener off balance but also keeps them locked into curious route this band is taking. The lyrics come across deeply personal and deeply sad. Certain lines catch my ear and I know I’m going to be poring over this one for the rest of the year (“I learned to scream ‘Bone Machine’/ My windshield spit was glistening” and “Each frequency’s a memory of some show we attended/ Fuck you learner’s permit/ Drive down to Philly with me to see the Wrens in a rec room” are good examples. Actually, there are a couple of Wrens references on LOSE, and the lyrics sheet looks a whole hell of a lot like The Meadowlands. Which is a really good thing). The personal burden unloaded in Joseph D’Agostino’s songs helps to eschew the normal indie rock conventions and offer a document of drugs and friendship and grief. It’s the sort of deep, thoughtful record with a hearty shelf life that makes me salivate.