Album Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years

By on Wednesday, 28th September 2016 at 12:00 pm

Cymbals Eat Guitars Pretty Years album coverWith rapturous and resounding aplomb, New York band Cymbals Eat Guitars have returned with ‘Pretty Years’, an album filled with tracks filled to the brim with rhapsody. From the first track ‘Finally’, no prisoners are taken in their quest for complete domination of mind and soul. Beginning with a guitar playing the song’s main chord sequence alone, the track all of a sudden bursts into life as the rest of the instrumentation joins in. A reverberant guitar line creates a vast space that is occupied by every instrument vying for your attention, it’s a perfect opening that gives the record immediate traction. This is quickly followed by ’Have a Heart’, a perfect encapsulation of youthful mistakes that are forgiven over time. Musically, it’s slightly more subdued than its predecessor, but its chorus makes a lasting impression: catchy, memorable and most of all, striking.

The sound of the instrumentation throughout the album is one that appears raw on the surface, almost clumsy. However, just below this, there’s a distinct cleverness as each layer comes together to create appealing melodies and hooks. ‘Wish’ features an overbearing saxophone that sounds crude but the song would be amiss without it, while ‘Close’ relies upon delicate use of synthesiser to build the darker soundscape which gives the track a dark dominance.


On ‘Dancing Days’ is where Cymbals Eat Guitars show they can also slow things down and bring delicacy to what they do. A light, pattering percussive introduction leads into the verse that goes through the motions with no real fanfare, but once again, it’s the chorus that gives the song its true weight. Curving away from the melody and into a more euphoric setting, the lyrics oppose this euphoria and almost with finality: “Goodbye to the dancing days, goodbye to the friends who fell away, goodbye to the pretty years”. A song that is evidently about growing older and feeling your time here speed away, Cymbals Eat Guitars prove they have depth as well as the ability to craft catchy music.

Urgency is restored with ‘4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)’. Kicking straight in after the calm of the previous track finishes, it becomes clear that the album itself is influenced by leading man Joseph D’Agostino processing the idea of growing old and reflecting on past times. ‘Beam’ enters furious punk territory, a refreshing move for its position on the album, near the end, it renews the record’s vigour all the way up until the crescendo that breaks into screaming vocal chaos from D’Agostino.


Once again not adhering to musical similarities, ‘Mallwalking’ is another slow, almost dreamy track. The song takes on another retrospective stance, seemingly referring to a dream D’Agostino had after the Columbine Massacre, doing so with perfect clarity. The slow percussive crawl that takes the song forward is broken as the guitar cuts through with a sharp and alert riff, making sure that this break in proceedings doesn’t cause CEG’s audience lose interest.

The most interesting aspect of the album is how each track has its own voice. They never sound like they’re from a similar vein. You find yourself nearing the end of the record and it doesn’t feel like it’s been an uninteresting slog, which too many albums sadly can. ‘WELL’, while not one of the strongest cuts, still has a draw that keeps you enthralled. At first it appears to refute the rest of the album’s appeal with its slow pacing, but suddenly it comes into its own during the bridge section toward the climax. With layers of soft piano lines and dreamy guitar riffs, it suddenly breaks down and collapses in on itself.

Album finales are where the previous hard-fought and built atmosphere can be lost. So the traction that pushes the listener to this point needs to capitalise on the moment and create a lasting impression. ‘Shrine’ opts to use a more subdued but nonetheless effective approach. The longest cut on the album, it doesn’t go for the immediacy of prior tracks but goes for a more progressive and building movement in the music. Never really reaching a climactic point, it falls away into a rapture of noise, nearly the opposite to the opener of the album. It does the job, leaving you feeling that you want more, so you listen once again. It’s a perfect move that ensures you have a complete experience and shows the power an album can have when it’s crafted to its full extent. A full on experience, ‘Pretty Years’ will help you get through the ageing process and the nostalgia that comes with it.


‘Pretty Years’, the fourth album from New York City’s Cymbals Eat Guitars, is out now on Sinderlyn Records. For past coverage of Cymbals Eat Guitars on TGTF, go here.

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