February 7, 2013 by Wayne.
Slightly over half the tracks on the debut album, House of Jupiter (2007), are ‘instrumentals’ (noodling guitar improv over generic power chord progressions) but the tracks that do have vocals mostly feature shallow, cliched lyrics covering little thematic ground. There are a couple of surprises though. The overly melancholic Break a Heart and Hide From Yourself hint at the direction later albums will pick up on, while Summer of the Gods attempts to explore slightly deeper material. While the instrumentals mostly try to be brash, downbeat rocking tracks (think Kyuss), there are a couple of mildly interesting riffs to be found (and subsequently overplayed, then drowned out by terrible guitar playing).
Cold Comfort for Change (2008), by contrast, has a somewhat more focused sound. The crunching power chords and ragged strumming make way for licks and melodic constructions drenched in reverb. The songs themselves slightly lack the sincerity (and enthusiasm?) of the first album, but they’re at least somewhat cohesive – if being mired in a thick fog of minor chords and self-pitying depression is a unifying theme. The lyrics branch out a bit more and the guitar playing mostly echoes the desire to explore. At times, the dissonant and perplexing chord choices mix with the incoherent mumbled lyrics to create a garbled mess (as on Semi-Chronic Stories). Most of the songs do have some potential in them though and if the excess fat is trimmed, some could even be passable tracks. Peeling back the outer layer of obsession with the self, a lot of the songs peek briefly into topics as disparate as paranoia and existentialism. Like the first album, a couple of the songs hint at the further direction of future albums (Heartwrencher, Let My Love Die etc.)
All things considered, the EP What’s With the Name? (2009) is pretty bizarre. The music is often dissonant to the point of being borderline unlistenable, the vocals are even more erratic and the lyrics alternate between incoherent nonsense and too-many-fucking-metaphors.
Vacancy (2010) is a pretty good album. No one else thinks so, but that’s alright. The intro isn’t quite The xx, but it’s fairly melodic and does set the tone for the rest of the album. Sure, the odd instrumental filler or two still exist (Shatter-Proof Eardrums, Mindwarper etc.) and not all the lyrics are quite there yet, but most of the tracks do reflect a deeper exploration of themes and content. As always, the songs would greatly benefit from proper recording + production + actual bass + drums. All that aside though, some songs are genuinely interesting (Sin, God is Vacant Here, Is), deftly switching between obvious metaphors and hidden meanings, often within the same verse.
Consisting solely of ambient noises and random keyboard-typing noises, the triple disc NSFW (2013) may be slightly too long, especially with the additional 124 minutes of B-sides (available via free digital download).
In a way, Afterthought (2014) feels like a more polished version of Vacancy. While there are no instrumentals and practically no guitar solos, the same earnest depression drives the introspective songs. The lyrics are increasingly confusing and the earlier attempts at singing have been replaced by hoarse shrieking and crying. Track by track, the artiste confronts his intellectual impotence and misguided sense of entitlement to devastating effect. It’s pretty fucking good.