Cymbals Eat Guitars recently released their sophomore album, Lenses Alien, to critical acclaim. They have seemingly avoided the “sophomore slump” and created an album that has something for everyone. Lenses Alien doesn’t sit still, it is in constant motion, it pushes the listener to constant motion, it’s a jumble of melodies and rhythm that borrows from many genres. Pop? It’s there. Noise rock? It’s there, too. Post-hardcore? Yep. It’s all wrapped up and rolled into a rock record.
The band’s current lineup came about shortly after the release of their first album Why There Are Mountains. It was while playing CMJ in 2009 that they, as they currently are, found their groove. They had only known each other briefly before the festival began, and used the showcases as practice. By the time they opened for the Flaming Lips in London, they had only played about ten shows together.
In the past two years, they’ve moved from a well-received self-released album to Barsuk Records. When I chatted with CEG at the Black Cat before Saturday’s show, Joe D’Agostino seemed at ease regarding the label change, “we had a distributor, tour manager, PR rep, but more people to do everything is easier.” They don’t have a bus, or exceptionally high expectations for themselves, they just play what they know, and so far that seems to be working for the better. They will be on tour for the next three months here in the States, and will be leaving for a tour in Europe early next year.
Lenses Alien in its many sounds has allowed them to borrow from all of their favorite bands and genres, and as Matt Miller (drummer) says, “we make our favorite music,” all of it. “I’m a drummer, I just love drumming,” Miller continues. (“That’s such a ‘drummer’ answer,” bassist Matt Whipple chimes in.) They’ve toured with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Los Campesinos!, among others. “Los Campesinos! play ‘take your shirt off’ music, we play ‘space out on your head phones’ music,” says Whipple. It’s true, having been to a few Los Campesinos! shows, the crowd is vastly different from your average Cymbals Eat Guitar fan. CEG fans tend to be mellow, and as Whipple says, “they’re other musicians, they take note of the pedals and gear we’re using”—something I noticed during their performance Saturday night.
The crowd wasn’t huge, but considering the obscure first opener, Beige, it wasn’t surprising. They were made up of two members, both of whom played synthesizers and took turns mumbling into their respective microphones. They played a short thirty minutes before their button pushing ceased. It wasn’t unpleasant; they’re just new, and haven’t learned how to incorporate an audience into their performance. Beige would likely rather play in their bedroom than on a stage.
By the time Hooray For Earth took the stage, the room had filled in a bit, though not nearly as much as I had anticipated. Hooray For Earth put out their first LP, True Loves, this summer. Their mix of synthesizers, strong drum lines, full vocals, and a healthy dash of ’80s pop translated well on stage. As I looked around, I noted that many members of the audience were playing air drums, while others resisted. It was only a half hour set, but the crowd fell in love. One person shouted “I fucking love you!” while others chanted “one more song” at the end of their set.
Cymbals Eat Guitars are noisy. They’re relentless. It doesn’t stop. Frontman Joe D’Agostino doesn’t stop moving, and as the tempo rose and fell, often abruptly, so did he. The jangly guitars and poppy piano melodies hung behind varying vocals. What could start as a roar often ended as a whisper. The audience, though small, was enthusiastic—though one would have to make a conscious effort to not move. At one point, D’Agostino laid down to catch his breath. Despite this brief break, he didn’t slow down for the remainder of their set.
When Cymbals Eat Guitars ended their set, they laid their instruments down and started to leave the stage, but quickly turned around for the encore. “Just pretend we left and then came back,” Matt Whipple said. Before they began again, a guy asked if Joe was wearing Levi’s because he was sure they were wearing the same pants. This was an uncomfortable exchange for everyone, and CEG quickly moved past it to play us a couple more songs. The energy came back and ended the night on a high, sweaty note.
Photos by Erica Bruce