Tag Archives: prog

Lawrence And Cambria

Lawrence of Arabia is one of those movies your told, nay instructed, to see if you enjoy film of the sort. I knew it was epic, but I had no idea how epic until the big, bold “Intermission” stood on screen about two and a half hours in. Planning an intermission in your film? Now that’s epic. All told, I walked into Coolidge Corner Theater around 7 and left after 11. And the movie was everything I thought it would be, and not quite what I expected. The cinematography was wonderful – big, sweeping shots of the desert right from the get-go. The acting wasn’t overwhelming, just was simply well done through and through. It wasn’t action-for-action shots throughout the three-plus hours, but the tension that built on the screen boiled over in every image, making the time pass by without a stir. And its connections to real-time concerns with what’s going on in the Middle East today was, well, more than simple good planning. Every detail was meticulously pondered over, and for an epic effect.

The real T.E. Lawrence

In the world of emo, nothing is more epic than New York’s Coheed & Cambria. It certainly helps that the world is of no concern to the band; their four concept albums span a web of narratives in an alternative universe created by frontman Claudio Sanchez and the group itself is named after the story’s two protagonists. Throw in Sanchez’s alien-like falsetto, the band’s taste for grand prog instrumentals that span into the double digits, and a narrative that transcends tales of love at its very best, and you’ve got something downright epic in the emo scene now over-run with three-chord pop-punk flavored anthems.

Coheed & Cambria share some similar stylistic elements to emo forefathers Sunny Day Real Estate (most notably the unheard of falsettos shared by their frontmen and the melding of progressive instrumentation), though Coheed is at an absolute extreme to Sunny Day. Coheed are otherworldly by comparison; their concern with matters of an alternative universe (one which Sanchez has plotted out in comic book form), their instrumentals run at sometimes-comical lengths and include too many time signature changes to account, and their musical aesthetics are more connected to the realm of New Jersey’s Lifetime than any DC Dischord act. It’s so absurd, yet so unrelentingly plausible and popular that it makes for the most epic sound in modern emo and on the top of the Billboard charts.

Coheed & Cambria

Personally, I’ve had a hard time getting into Coheed’s last two albums. For some reason, whatever I listen to just seems devoid of the same cathartic expression and passionate performance of Second Stage Turbine Blade and In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. Sure, some of the lengthier tracks on Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV Vol 1 run the gamut of musical menageries, but at some point the album seemed too absurd for its own intentions. It’s an excellent case for and against the idea of epic. When it all comes together in a creative and ingenious manner (see “Everything Evil” off Second Stage) it works wonders. But too often the beast becomes to big for its own good, and end in and of itself that is impressive more for its size than content; it loses the fresh vigor and zeal that drove it to such a passionate beginning. Coheed is traveling a fine line between both worlds. It’s not quite Lawrence of Arabia, but thankfully nowhere near Epic Movie.

Coheed & Cambria – Devil In Jersey City

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Impossibly Short

Just a quick one for tonight. Caught The Impossible Shapes at the Milky Way Lounge and Lanes in Jamaica Plain this evening. First thing’s first – the Milky Way may just be the best venue in Boston, period. The Middle East is the time-olde locale for great incoming shows, as is the Paradise and a number of others. But nothing can beat the feel of the Milky Way. It’s an anomaly of a club; the place was used purely as a bowling alley until someone had the bright idea to turn it into a quasi-club. You can still go duck-pin bowling and catch a band playing on what is still the hardwood floor of a bowling lane. And they’ve got really cheap and free shows and events. If only JP weren’t so far out of the way….

Needless to say, The Impossible Shapes put on a solid set. Their music went through crazy time signature changes, hung around low-fi folk tunes before blasting them with a hit of psychedelica-cum-rawk instrumentation, and the harmonies were just great. Suffice it to say, their work reminded me of the Sunny Day Real Estate album How It Feels To Be Something On. Before all of the indie rock reunions of today, the band that brought emo to the big time with the appearance of the “Seven” video on MTV rotation in 1994, Sunny Day broke up in ’95 only to get back together a couple of years later. What came out of this reunion was a startling piece of pop music. Although I’m quite partial to Sunny Day’s second release, 1995’s LP2 (otherwise known as The Pink Album as its cover is drenched in bright pink and has no official title),
How It Feels To Be Something On is a masterpiece, a startling evolution and ideological streamline where before there was simply a caterwauling mess. Sunny Day could caterwaul with the best of them, but their first album after their reunion was startling mature, comfortably crafted, and a straight shot of pure emotion. Whereas on Sunny Day’s earlier material, frontman Jeremy Enigk fights against the drift that has swept him away, with How It Feels Enigk’s voice and lyrics are startlingly clear, straightforward, and thoughtful. Before his words were a question in search of an answer, but with How It Feels, Enigk appears to understand the question, answer, the entire picture, and the reason that’s it all there.

Sunny Day Real Estate

And the music cannot be beat. Diary and LP2, Sunny Day’s first two albums, excelled in the world of the DC, post-hardcore aesthetics of what is known as emo. The music lurched back and forth, seething with a catharsis that cannot quit, and a restrained hardcore punk fury that pushes it along. But with How It Feels, Sunny Day stretch out their musical abilities – those which were easily heard on their first two albums, but put to their experimental tests with their inevitable reunion. It may reach out into prog territory, but it works for the benefit of the album, which takes in the best of many rock-based genres for trips into tranquil waters and angelic highs. Enigk’s voice, an uncompromising falsetto, soars to unbelievable new heights, lengths that crash through the ceiling the singer had set with songs such as “J’Nuh” and “Song About An Angel” on earlier albums. For anyone who thought that emo was uniform, terrible pop, or impossible to listen to, How It Feels To Be Something On can quell the worst fears that emo went the way of the dodo after it left DC.

Also, before I sign off, check out the blog Songs Across Boston. In the coming weeks, I hope to establish a guerrilla performance schedule, a flash mob for bands, if you will. More details will be up soon on the blog, so stay tuned… it should be an interesting experiment. Anyway, here are some musics for you…

Sunny Day’s live rendition of “Guitar and Video Games” plus the “Seven” video:

The Impossible Shapes – You Are Not The Target