Blue Sky Noise | Circa Survive
The cover of Circa Survive’s newest offering, “Blue Sky Noise,” features a haloed and toga-clad young man being eaten by a five-legged winged antelope monster with a dozen beady eyes and a tubular mouth. It plays a horn, rainbows shoot from its hide, and gravity pulls it in at least four directions. It’s certainly an arresting image, but one that is ultimately too incongruous and absurd to be taken seriously. So it is with the album’s music.
Circa Survive is a talented group, as is clearly displayed on 2007’s “On Letting Go.” But here they give off a vibe of trying too hard, and in doing so, the self-styled “experimental” band strays too far from the simultaneously atmospheric and driving post-hardcore punk that made their last album so successful.
There are moments reminiscent of their past work, notable for its dense arrangement and ebbing and flowing melodic lines. “Through the Desert Alone” is such a song, in which frontman Anthony Green’s (of The Sound of Animals Fighting and formerly of Saosin) overdubbed vocals float high above dueling guitar lines and busily thundering drums.
The first single, “Get Out,” is also a winner, a carefully crafted wrecking ball of a song that at first blush might sound like any other emo punk song, but with further listens reveals some interesting rhythmic figures at play and superb, if understated, guitar work by Brendan Ekstrom and Colin Frangicetto. The lyrics leave something to be desired, but they are delivered in Green’s unique voice—a high caterwauling style (never screamed) full of bite and urgency.
Such a voice is perfectly suited for the album’s up-tempo numbers and even finds a place among some of the more meandering, atmospheric tracks. Where it doesn’t belong is a mid-tempo ballad, such as “I Felt Free,” which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the last Linkin Park album.
This inconsistency is the biggest problem with “Blue Sky Noise.” For every fun or engaging song (“Fever Dreams”) there’s one that wastes time spinning its wheels (“Frozen Creek”), lacks harmony (“Spirit of the Stairwell” at a long 5½ minutes) or is just plain forgettable (“Imaginary Enemy”).
Each track sounds detached from the others in this collection of singles, which is not necessarily a weakness, but it points to Circa Survive’s over-ambition. The band is capable of great work, but rather than pursue their talents, they seem content to experiment with all of their musical impulses. When they get cooking, they’re great, but too many tracks never get off the ground. This is a perfect album to buy online, where you can separate the aural wheat from the chaff.
For fans of: Saosin, The Sounds of Animals Fighting, Chiodos
Tracks to download: ‘Get Out,’ ‘Through the Desert Alone,’ ‘Fever Dreams’