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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Explosions in the Sky: Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (Release Date: 4-26-2011)

        As long as I've known what the words, 'Post-Rock,' meant while seated together, Explosions in the Sky has been the figurehead of the genre. I'm fully aware that they are neither the first nor the last of their kind, but they were my first real exposure to the kind of long-playing instrumental rock that they and their genre contemporaries trade in, and remain my favorite example (Sorry, Mogwai fans). Their languid song structures and attention to detail have always ensured that each of their build-ups is just as captivating and gorgeous as the eventual climax. Whoever tapped them for the Friday Night Lights movie soundtrack was really on to something; This is cinematic music at its most effecting.

        The Texas four-piece has let up on next to none of their dramatic grandeur on their latest disc, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, as their hearts still rest on their sleeves in often stunning fashion. Human Qualities, for instance, builds on a playful, nostalgic little rumble for over three minutes before its bass-drum led calm-before-the-storm. When the tune finally explodes, it's as cathartic and rapturous as always, crashing symbols and once twinkling guitars suddenly set to fiery bouts of passion. It's not music for those who need instant gratification; All but one of the album's six tracks is over seven minutes long, and tunes like Qualities wait up to 80% of their runtime before really reaching their climax. In other words, it's an Explosions in the Sky album.

        And therein lies the rub: While Take Care will serve as an undeniably good listen for those who like the band and their style of music, it's extraordinarily familiar at every turn. While Explosions has never been a band with a very wide range, past efforts have managed to distinguish themselves in one way or another. Their first proper studio release, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, was a far dirtier version of the sound that they now inhabit, opener Greet Death ripe with the kind of extra-distorted guitar sound that the band now primarily shies away from. Follow-Up The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place stretched out song structures, and focused more closely on beautiful melodies than the chaotic conclusions that they foretold. Finally, their last full-length, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, navigated the distance between the two on its way to being its own unique entity. Even their EP (The Rescue) and their collection of leftovers (How Strange, Innocence, recorded before Those Who Tell the Truth), had a sound world that, while clearly belonging to Explosions in the Sky, could rightfully be called their own. No such claim could be made of Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.

        Opening number Last Known Surroundings is epic and life-affirming, and had I never heard The Birth and the Death of Day, perhaps it would move me as much as the actual notes themselves should. But I have heard that song, and while Surroundings is a good tune in its own right, it lacks the sparkle of new inspiration that its predecessor has in spades. The same could be said for the romantic slow-build of Postcard From 1952, which would sound like quite an accomplishment if I hadn't already heard them do the same thing to astonishing emotional effect in the form of Your Hand in Mind. I understand that it's kind of faint praise, but that's all that I can really give Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. Like the newest releases from the aforementioned Mogwai and even Radiohead, the newest Explosions album is a good record that perfectly exemplifies how hard it is for a band whose been great for a long period of time to continue to shine and surprise. If you've never heard an Explosions album before, get ready to have your socks knocked off. Even if you have, this one is more than worthy of a few spins, it's just kind of hard to get excited about.

Grade: B

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