Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
On those early Velvet Underground recordings Mo Tucker loved her toms. Her preference to thump rather than crash makes her playing unmistakable, putting her in that elite handful of drummers that can be easily identified from sound alone. The rationale behind the style comes not only from her own creative instinct, but from Lou Reed’s philosophy in the studio. Not wanting his distressed punishment of six strings to be lost in the mix he made it very clear that when recording, Cymbals Eat Guitars. With over 30 years of water under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge since that statement, this group of fellow New Yorkers have adopted Mr Reed’s thinking as their moniker.
Whilst their name has its roots in the sixties, their sound turns the clock forward thirty years. They are quite openly in love with Pavement, from the lazy rasping off-kilter vocals to the distorted nearly-in-tune guitar sound. But their ambition stretches far beyond being a tribute band. For the bulk of the album this works to their credit but they often fall victim to trying to do too much at once, making the album a bit of a mess in places. Rather than ruining everything however, the opposite is true. Like the sweating and panting fat kid trying to catch up with the ice cream van, their zest to achieve has a charm all of its own.
Their aspiration for greatness is clear from the opening bars of the six minute long ‘And The Hazy Sea’. The loud-quite-dynamic is taken straight from The Pixies playbook and counterbalances the high-pitched vocals and childlike xylophone ditties. Guitars and amps are set to bliss and propel the listener to giddy heights normally reserved for their stadium filling contemporaries. ‘Share’ is quite epic in scope, but at seven minutes long takes the idea further than it has legs to travel. They are capable of writing the perfect two-and-a-half minute song - proven by the spectacular ‘Living North’ which takes everything they do well and compresses it into one of the finest tracks released this year. Juxtaposing whispering and screaming vocals it makes all the right noises at all the right times. Drums and bass in uplifting tandem underline a driving barrage of guitars that barely hold it together. It feels like at any second the whole thing could collapse under it is own weight. Holding its breath as it makes it over the finish line intact.
With some exceptionally good tracks one could consider cherrypicking the best of this. But to do so would remove the context in which the magic happens - it only really comes to life with all the pieces in place.