Archive for the ‘Citizen’ Category

Citizen — Everybody is Going to Heaven

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Shoegaze is the vodka of musical genres, a clear spirit you can add to almost any other liquid to turn it into some kind of alcoholic drink. It’s the difference between a glass of orange juice and a vodka Screwdriver, or a Bloody Mary and a cold tomato soup. The coolest thing about vodka is it works in almost everything, while still remaining perfect on its own. Shoegaze is about the same. You can mix it up with any other genre, or you can decide to play it straight. Acts like Deafheaven and Dälek use shoegaze to transcend the conventions of their genres, while bands like Nite Fields or French Films use it as a way of filling out their sound. And bands like My Bloody Valentine or Flyying Colours use it differently again: in its pure form, without subservience or dilution, they let it drive their sound. While any of these approaches are enjoyable and equally justifiable, to fans of the genre at least, it’s really the first approach, the introduction of shoegaze to an unfamiliar form, that leads to the most unexpected and memorable musical discoveries. If Everybody is Going to Heaven was a cocktail, it’d be something bizarre but ultimately desirable like a Bloody Mary or a BLT. You might balk at some of its ingredients — alt-rock and emo, mostly, with a dash of noise rock and post-hardcore — but once you try it, you will understand. It’s one of those rare musical combinations that transcends all of its constituent parts, and it’s the shoegaze elements that tie it all together, making this dense, layered, heavy kind of music that ends up sounding different to anything you’ve ever heard before.

‘Cement’ is a bombastic, sludge-infused, post-hardcore opener. It’s loud, riff-driven, and sounds enormous, with sad, melodic vocals over wall-of-noise distorted guitars. The shoegaze elements in the track give the instrumentals a really immediate sense of power, playing off wonderfully against the small, comparatively fragile sounding vocals. The vocals build up during the bridge, which simmers and twists around a repeated guitar riff building into a massive pop-punk chorus. It’s a heavy, moody, and ultimately satisfying structure, which you expect to be repeated in the next track, ‘Dive Into My Sun’. But Citizen keep you guessing, building small vocals over spider-like guitars to a soft crescendo after an unexpectedly short bridge, before deconstructing completely in a single, minimalistic guitar line strung out across a roaring abyss. It transitions seamlessly into ‘Numb Yourself’, which is way more abrasive than the intro would suggest, starting immediately with coarse, impassioned shouting. The bass is heavy, the melodic work is beautiful, and there’s an overwhelming quality to the distortion like something pulled from Heads., or Metz. It’s not noise rock, not exactly, but it’s got that similar sort of power to it. Just layers and layers of guitar chords pulled together under raw-sounding vocals and melodic screaming.

The melodies are nostalgic, reminiscent of 90’s emo but also darker alternative rock bands like Smashing Pumpkins or Placebo. This comparison is only heightened by later tracks like ‘Yellow Love’ or ‘Heaviside’, which sound like they’d fit in amongst the lullabies on Smashing Pumpkins’ Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness, or the softer songs on a early Placebo album. But the energy, the intensity of it all – like a powder keg that threatens to explode at any time, even in the softer tracks – that’s all emotional hardcore. And the combination of these factors – the harmonies, the energy, the troughs, the peaks, and the random, unexpected shows of force – it all comes together into this beautiful, unpredictable and ultimately inspiring package. It’s like the emo equivalent of Ceremony’s recent foray into post-punk revival on their latest album, but the changes in their sound never affect their overall status as an emo band. The shoegaze elements are subservient to the rest of it, used as more of a tool to combine a disparate set of musical influences, to bring them all together into something else. I’ve rarely been a fan of emotional hardcore, but I can’t get enough of this album. It combines the careful melodicism and orchestral layering of 90’s alternative music with the sheer emotional intensity of hardcore, and puts it all together into this devastating aural assault that overwhelms you, then makes you want to sing along to pop-punk-inspired choruses. It’s more than just an emo album, while at the same time sounding like nothing else. Even if you’re not into the genre at all, even if you usually hate it, the album is deserving of your time. And if you are into the genre already, then who knows? It might just be your album of the year.

Everybody is Going to Heaven is out now through Run For Cover Records.