Explosions In The Sky is a band with an unfortunate burden. They have created an all time classic, genre-defining album. Most bands strive to achieve this feat, however, I must only assume they do not understand the consequences. EITS will never make a better album than 2003’s The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place. This is not my opinion, but rather a well-known fact. People are going to constantly compare every release to this album, as I will do later in this review. This kind of pressure would likely kill a weaker band, but fortunately for everyone who is a fan of the band, EITS are not quitters. They continue to try their asses off to stay at the top of the post-rock world, and have so far been successful. Aside from the album that I apparently missed in 2005, The Rescue, and therefore cannot comment on (but you can download it for free at the bands website), EITS released the phenomenal All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone in 2007. The album had it all for an EITS fan. Instrumentals beautifully glistening via layered, drifting guitars, somehow finding themselves contorted into epic, cathartic masses of sound. They even threw in some piano (which I’m a sucker for). Now, in 2011, EITS are back looking to further cement their position as kings of the post-rock world.
Their latest effort, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, is EITS doing their damn thing, and the listener will know this straight out of the gate. On the album opener, “Last Known Surroundings”, feedback swells through you ears, as guitars are interwoven with the steady, dynamic drumbeat of Chris Hrasky. However, it is the 3:15 minute mark where the true fun begins. At points in songs where it seems any other band would just be finishing up, EITS are just getting started. The drums fade out, and we are left with a sole guitarist finger-picking an entrancing riff, hypnotizing the listener and leading him or her to the finale of the song, in which guitars create a vast soundscape on which the frantic drumbeat marches. I used to think it was the loud, massive endings that make EITS epic, but I have since came to find that it is the slow, clean guitar lines the build the scene. They are the slow motion camera panning the worn-out, rugged soldiers as they line up for the final battle. And these parts are the overbearing reason why this album is not the instant classic that TEINACDP was.
Don’t get me wrong, there are slow parts. They are still well timed and beautifully arranged, but there is almost always something missing. At times they are too quiet and do not transition into particularly interesting parts (“Be Comfortable, Creature”). Other times, the drums are overused, which really kills that dead-space, lonely sound (“Postcard from 1952”). As a band built on dynamics, it seems they would be better suited to focus on the quieter rather than the louder, as they seem to have the latter down to a science.
Another problem with this album is the band created two of their worst songs ever… and put them back-to-back!!! C’mon, really, what is “Trembling Hands”? Far too upbeat, lacking creativity, void of emotion. Crap song. The next track, “Be Comfortable, Creature” is the polar opposite of its predecessor, which should be a good thing right? Well, the track starts off great, but the melody just slips into a slow beat that goes absolutely nowhere. It feels like a filler track where no filler track was needed (or wanted).
Despite those two unfortunate tracks, the album is still very good. The band, while maintaining a similar sound from album to album, tends to employ subtle tactics to keep everything fresh. On one of the album’s standout tracks, “Human Qualities”, EITS incorporates an entrancing electronic bear, softly clapping its way through slow-building melodies fading in and out of the speakers. This use of electronics, while at first coming off as a bit gimmicky, is quickly embraced by the listener before it segues wonderfully into the thunderous ending. The best track on the album is arguably the closer, “Let Me Back In”, which also brings a little extra somethin’ somethin’ to the table, with a calm, almost swing beat guiding the rest of the band through the dark, ominous intro. It feels wrong, but EITS make it work while surprisingly flowing it into one of the lighter moods on the album. The transition is made even more delightful by using a great, catchy little riff on all three guitars that is guaranteed to make your ears perk up a bit. The track proceeds by wallowing back into a low before erupting into a sea of distortion and guitar effects, continuing in this pattern until it fades into its (and the album’s) somber death.
As I said before, EITS are a band that carries a burden, scarred by a perfect album that will never be topped. But they seem to know this and use it as an excuse to experiment more with their sound. Take Care, Take Care, Take Care may not be a perfect album. Hell, it might not even be the best album in the genre released this year (I’m looking at you This Will Destroy You). But it is a very solid showcase from a band that puts tremendous effort into creating the art of music without words, diving headfirst into the challenge of displaying emotion without verbally saying how they feel once, and fuckin’ rocking that shit.