PRETTY YEARS by Cymbals Eat Guitars
Genre: Indie Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Dancing Days,” “Mall Walking,” “Wish”
I don’t remember the halcyon days of gritty indie music in 2009, but if you do, then you may know of Cymbals Eat Guitars. Joseph D’Agostino’s band saw success back in the day, but found themselves grappling for an audience as the lust for noisy, angst-filled indie a la the Pixies faded.
PRETTY YEARS isn’t a terrible record, but it does cater to a particular taste. Their sound is that of a heavy, lo-fi 90’s band you’d expect to find in the garage of a cool party. Cymbals Eat Guitar is a band not distinctive for the quality of D’Agostino’s vocals, but for the palpable emotions he sings with. Songs are dense, with jaunty tempos and driving, Merseybeat style drumming. At first listen, the band reminds me vaguely of the Smashing Pumpkins. It’s the kind of music carried by screeching guitar solos and lyrical questions about existence.
PRETTY YEARS is a good outlet for those who need it; fans of Warped Tour and A Day to Remember immediately come to mind. The album exists somewhere between emo, scene, and the youth-centric emotion of 90’s alternative. There are brightly colored riffs that keep the mood light despite existential lyrics. The energy throughout the album, especially in the pounding drums, provides a nice cathartic release.
While the album cover involves a coffin and a vacuum cleaner, don’t be deterred. This is not an experimental band. Notes are clearly chosen with reason and calculation. In fact, it’s the simplicity of the chords that reminds you that kids in Doc Martens can make music with three messy notes. PRETTY YEARS builds on a simple structure, with wailing guitar and warped synthesizers, this simplicity lending the band a certain charm.
For those weary of heavier music, “Have a Heart” is an upbeat, catchy pop tune radically different from pummeling opening number “Finally.” Another gem is “Wish,” a song that dances to a wistful guitar riff. There is a screechy bridge that can induce a cringe, but the beat comes back and you can’t help but tap your feet. “Close” differs from the formula, with a soft-sounding riff that manages to be both up-tempo and calming at the same time, unlike other songs on the record. “Dancing Days” is the favorite, featuring a falsetto voice that takes off with a leap, while crashing drums keep it aloft. “Beam” is a massive, anxious, screaming song that could have been left out. “Mall Walking,” on the other hand, is more gentle, with a backwards guitar solo rewinding like a VHS tape. The lyrics in “Well” are of acceptance: “I think I need help / wanna be well.” The last song of the album, “Shrine,” ends in a joyous cacophony similar to the forte ending of an orchestra. Melodies from the whole record come together to build into a crescendo and fizzle out into popping fireworks. Honestly, I was fairly glad that the record was over.
Personally, I won’t find myself giving PRETTY YEARS a relisten. This is aggressive music, and frankly, it took more effort to listen and get through it than I was willing to give. However, this is also an emotional album, with the principal of the theme being positive. The crux of the album is about being alive, and the band certainly has a lot to say about the subject. If you find yourself alone at night, angry at nothing in particular and tiring of Simple Plan, then give it a spin. The rest of us can sit this one out.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend