Red Sparowes - The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer
Sargent House
8 songs (43:02)
Release year: 2010
Red Sparowes, Sargent House
Reviewed by Goat

Writing about instrumental music is hard enough at the best of times, but when it comes to the Red Sparowes I’m especially lost, so forgive my meanderings. For the uninitiated, the five-piece play a softer version of Isis, without any vocals at all, and manage to avoid the usual pitfalls of Post-Rock by making their music genuinely uplifting and emotional. Whether wordlessly discussing the apparently forthcoming and inevitable sixth extinction on their debut, or criticising the mass culling of sparrows during Mao Zedong’s so-called Great Leap Forward on the follow-up, here the band deal with even more wider and far-reaching questions; ‘truth, faith, order, causality, and the innate demand for an understanding of the larger world around us’ according to their website. And yes, such flowery language is important if you’re going to get anywhere in your attempt to understand the band’s music, as my usual strategy of just calling it ‘nice’ will not do here. It’s all nice, the album as a whole being one long aural caress, gentle waves of sound lapping at your ears as you sit and watch the sun set or the tide go out or some other suitably relaxing visual experience.

(That’s the best way to sum the album up, if you’re skim-reading and want something for the background of a romantic dinner with your hipster girlfriend. Go and buy it.)

For the rest of you with more time on your hands, you’ll probably be aware that Post-Rock by its very nature is nice – none of those horrible stomping hard rock riffs or non-PC lyrics about drinking and shagging for us, it seems to be saying. We’ve over that silliness, we’re post-rock. Pretentious? Like, duh. This has always seemed, from my cynical opinion, to be a sort of elevator music tailor-made for artsy hypocrites, a wishy-washy unthreatening soundtrack for the empty post-millennial morons who support the likes of Greenpeace and PETA but avert their eyes and chuckle nervously when friends make racist comments. I’m being unfair, of course, but it’s the lack of diversity within the genre that turns people off it. Hear a couple of Post-Rock albums, you’ve heard them all, yet as pretentious as it is, it’s hard to deny that done well the music is very good indeed, even lacking stomping riffs and drinking/shagging lyrics. The one vital band that people generally quote are Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but I think Red Sparowes deserve some love as well, not least for helping Metalheads of various shapes and sizes discover the genre through the Isis connections.

In addition, and more importantly, they are great at what they do, and The Fear Is Excruciating... is another good album, tidying up some silliness and shunting the band closer to a song-driven format. Fans will doubtless be relieved to hear that the excessively-worded song titles of yesteryear have been cut down ruthlessly, and that the longest tracks present are just over seven minutes long – heavens, are the band actually learning to say more with less? Intro Truths Arise is just short of two minutes long, a brief, almost orchestral warm-up that sets you up for something far noisier than the quiet and moody bass-led muttering of In Illusions Of Order. It develops slowly over its seven-minute plus length, triple-guitars forming complex layers of sound over a strong rhythm section, music that is at once a wall of pretty noise and a deep and intense set of melodies. Not everyone will have the patience for it, but if you do take the time to stop and experience it in full, it’s more akin to losing yourself in a detailed painting than it is a walk in the woods – the longer you experience it, the more you form an understanding.

The album continues with A Hail Of Bombs, and a very pleasant hail it is, almost folky strumming beneath a steady flow of melody before downtuned stoner vibes make things slightly heavier. The following Giving Birth To Imagined Saviours overdoses on epidurals at first, before going slightly Indie and uptempo with the sort of thing Snow Patrol might one day write if they stop being shite, and the following A Swarm feels like something you heard earlier on the album, but is done so well that you don’t mind. In Every Mind might get slightly heated with some peeved-sounding guitar, but the soft Americana of A Mutiny arises with nary a protest, and closing track As Each End Looms And Subsides speeds up towards the end to a crescendo which is cut off just as things suggest the hint of true heaviness. As a whole, the album flows well, never throwing any jarring elements or outlandish bits of experimentation in – from first to last, it’s an excellent post-rock record, with all that that implies. I like my music more violently experimental in general, but we all need time to relax between bouts of headbanging, and whilst the US military won’t be playing Red Sparowes to get themselves pumped up for battle any time soon, they’d be perfectly sensible to use it to unwind.

Killing Songs :
In Illusions Of Order, A Hail Of Bombs, Giving Birth To Imagined Saviours, A Swarm, A Mutiny
Goat quoted 80 / 100
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There are 2 replies to this review. Last one on Sat May 08, 2010 7:14 pm
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