We Were Exploding Anyway
Simon Jay Catling
, April 27th, 2010 10:49
This is how you get to We Were Exploding Anyway. You release a debut album that, whilst acclaimed, is subject to a "no vocals but some guitars? Must be post-rock" summarisation from critics that'll stick for years. You point out your first EP was more influenced by Aphex Twin and other IDM artists than any purveyors of fifteen minute "soundscapes," but no-one seems to have heard it. You release another critically lauded but commercially unsuccessful album, leaving you skint; so you gig up to 200 shows a year. Sometimes, though, a venue you attracted three hundred people to one night contains about fifty another. Then your third album splits the fan base you had gathered and you're back to square one. What finally makes you a success? Robert Smith randomly decides he likes you and books you to support The Cure for six months which, while great, probably leaves you wondering what exactly the first few years' painstaking toil were for.
So some might say that a fourth album finally eschewing any lingering links to the post-rock tag, in favour of gleaming brain-logging hooks and lean dance-ready rhythms, could be classed as a party effort. But no, after years of increasing the talent-to-limited appeal ratio - only for complete chance to pluck them off it - this is surely the Sheffield group's "ah, fuck it" album: an exhilarating forty-three minutes that sees the group disregard much of what made people ponder too hard about them and let us know that, instead, they just want to make dance music. And guess what, they do it really well.
At two and a half minutes into second track 'Crash Tactics' you notice something's changed. After a sustained opening onslaught of dust-raising rhythms, hyperactive squiggles and back and forth guitars you ready yourself for the song structure to- as is normally 65's wont- veer elsewhere; a change in sound dynamic, a different time signature perhaps. Neither occurs. Instead they cut the rhythm section and, like a pie-eyed Ministry of Sound DJ, push the track's ongoing melody to the heavens in an attempt to harness a joyously simple euphoria. Then like a blink it's gone, the returning onslaught shouting louder and louder before, within another thirty seconds, fini. Firstly, where's the rest gone? And secondly, why am I mid-head bang some six feet away from where I was originally sitting?
The four-piece haven't totally given up the shifting structures and careful layering of their previous albums, they're just done with trying to make people "get" them. Every track here feels compact- even the ones surpassing eight minutes fly by. It's like de-facto front man Joe Shrewsbury's run around the studio forcing every glitchy nuance and siren-sounding guitar into a sealed box. As a result We Were Exploding Anyway exhibits a constantly frenzied energy, its trapped components straining and pushing to free themselves only to hurtle through the album together instead. None more so is this accentuated than on 'Dance Dance Dance' as a shimmering opening is brutally overhauled by a downright primal assault of fizzing bass and jungle beats that drive and drive and drive, leaving us wriggling wildly on the hook's end - fucking with pillheads indeed. 'Debutante' offers the only respite from this unquenchable industrial rumble; a bittersweet swell of synth that rises and falls with gentle sway, though even this calm isn't completely free of the glitch and undulation circling below it.
Overheard criticisms: 1.) It sounds like The Prodigy. In the early 90s techno buzz of 'Weak4' in particular there are undoubted parallels, but is that a bad thing? In any case, the razor sharp melodies are more in line with the chest-beating fire-starting Prodigy of old than the weary shadows they've become. 2.) It sounds like Pendulum. This one's harder to defend, especially when the robotic voices of 'Go Complex' segue into slightly too sickly glo-sticks-in-the-air arena-isms. But where the Australian drum 'n'bass group offer little below the surface, 65daysofstatic remain master technicians, each track carried along atop tapestries of intricate guitars, drum rattles and machinery.
It's the cameo of the aforementioned Mr. Smith that really illustrates their newly acquired brazen attitude. 'Come To Me' surprises, not only because it's The Cure front man on a 65days record, but also because he- who's led his band obediently behind his every emotional will and twist- finds himself helplessly pulled along. 65days toy with his vocals, leave him clasping at fluttering glints of light, have him chasing hammering percussion, or simply bury him under layers of guitar. It says much for Smith that he hangs on and, if not really getting close to taming the beast, his monolithic battle with it at least provides the album's stirring highlight. 65daysofstatic have had their years in the wilderness; now they're sick of it and have decided to fully let loose, bludgeoning us into submission along the way; and why shouldn't they? Fuck it, we were only exploding anyway.