Cymbals Eat Guitars
Saturday, September 12
Brian F. Johnson
Staten Island quartet Cymbals Eat Guitars came out of seemingly nowhere when their debut album, Why There Are Mountains, was bestowed Pitchfork’s “Best New Music” honor. Who were these guys? Staten Island, seriously? They were, of course, four hustling musicians who’d struck gold on the songwriting front, crafting a beastly, obtuse album that sounds a lot like Built To Spill, if Built To Spill actually had some youth on their side and could still throw down in a street fight or get upset over a girl.
Hype-raking reviews aside, there’s this important detail: Why There Are Mountains is a real album, a ‘grower’ that dishes out simple pleasures with every spin. Aside from obvious recurring elements — front man Joseph D’Agostino’s restless yelp and sinuous riffs, drummer Matthew Miller’s wirey rhythms paired with bassist Neil Berenholz’s melodic bass style, and the orchestral layers of keyboard — there are shades of shoegaze (the patient, feedback-bathed passages of “Share”), Motown (the buoyant bass lines of “Cold Spring”), and technicolor-tinged pop (the breezy horns and schizo synths of “Indiana”), not to mention pure chaos, as explored in the gate-crashing “…And The Hazy Sea,” the tension-ratcheting “Like Blood Does,” and the final, throat-tearing moments of “Wind Phoenix (Proper Name).”