Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cymbals Eat Guitars, Bear in Heaven, Feelance Whales Live at the Middle East Downstairs 4/8/10

Coming off their recent debut Why There Are Mountains, the Middle East Downstairs was host to the carnage of a swarm of floating cymbals taking down some guitars like savannah gazelles in a school cafeteria and having a food fight with them.

Each band seemed to draw their own crowds. An electric guitar balances against a banjo resting on an acoustic guitar like a house of cards in sound, but never even quivers like its going to fall. This image essentially summed up the swooning pop of Freelance Whales. Seeing unconventional instruments like a tin watering can and an antique harmonium in a rock band just added to the giddy that covered the crowd like the soft baby blue fabric of the organ's bellows. The singer of Bear in Heaven proudly remarked that they played for one single person at T.T. the Bear's Place the last time they were in Boston. The band's drone gloom washed with blood red light had you wondering if the guitarist was playing anything at all until you realized how good they were at transforming guitar strings into synth keys.

The members of Cymbals Eat Guitars are all around 21, with a startling first record and already playing packed shows. Their age somehow reasons well with their sound, like it were trapped in an all concrete suburban housing development somewhere in New York. They escaped playing in their parent's all concrete garages with concrete windows and turned the wasteland into a playground, swaying on concrete swings with concrete chains, growing moss where lawns should be and kudzu where power lines used to hang. It's like the lyrics flowing 'Like Blood Does,' "from faucets in pitch black bathrooms during adolescent summoning rituals."

Their experimentation with noise is youthful as well. It was captured in their opener "And the Hazy Sea," which also opens the record. The tempo changes are little surprises that burst from slow nostalgic riff mantras into joyous static, giving an audible form and figure to the word fun. Guitar riffs trade places with sleezy piano that doesn't seem to fit at all yet belongs there more than any other sound in the song. It's like an old joke you heard before that somehow has a new twisted and infinitely clever punchline. An example is that they were selling a 7" with a cover of Elliott Smith's "Ballad of Big Nothing." Just imagining Cymbal Eat Guitar's sound transposing Elliott Smith's is a dizzying thought, and it doesn't disappoint.

It took the lead singer less than a minute to be completely drenched in sweat. His whole body bowed into his ravenous riffs, making noises that didn't seem humanly possible. Coughing a few times, he probably was playing through a cold. He might've explained it at the end of the show, during the only moment he took to address the crowd. However, no one could hear him, because their ears were full of buzzing. The climax of their set was an oppressive and impressive extended noise session of decaying dinosaurs tumbling out of an amplifier during the bridge of "Like Blood Does."

They also played a new song, gloriously confirming a follow up record. Unfortunately, not even their live show gives you any clue why there are mountains.cymbalseatguitars.com

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