REVIEW: Explosions In The Sky – The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place

Band:Explosions In The Sky
Album: The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
Release: 2003
Label: Temporary Residence Limited
Genre: Post-rock

As a genre, post-rock seems to be one of the more all-encompassing ones, and also compatible with other genres. The general definition of long compositions and layered guitar melodies have resulted in a variety such as Sigur Rós and Mogwai, but influences can also be heard in other places from indie rock to black metal. So it is expected that a lot of bands are going to try and push the boundaries as to how post-rock can be defined. On the other side, there are those who stay comfortably in the bounds and focus on using formulae to create good music. It is in this latter group which Explosions In The Sky fall, and is both their strength and their downfall.

From the opening heart-machine guitar-notes and heartbeat bass drums to the final crashing fadeout, the album is nothing if not flowing. Given that this is their third album, the trademark melodic guitar lines and waves of drums should be nothing new to established fans, and even if you’ve never heard of the band before, the songs feel familiar. The repeated melodies that are scattered over this album are not annoying, but do give the impression that the album is one extended song. The songs themselves are simple, crisply produced and act like waves as they swirl and crash. The listener does get lost somewhere in the middle owing to “Six Days At The Bottom Of The Ocean” being the least memorable of the tracks, but “Your Hand In Mine” does a fantastic job of rounding off the album.

I have to hand it to the band, they do know how to capture the feelings in the titles of their songs. “First Breath After Coma” is a song that wakes up as it progresses, and “Memorial” opens with a funereal effect to the guitars. The closer of the album, “Your Hand In Mine”, is personally one of the best songs that this genre has to offer and epitomizes Munaf’s statement that the album was “an attempt at writing love songs”. However, the music is not soppy, overly romantic, or even particularly upbeat, but it does leave the listener in a serene calm by the end, heightened by the complete absence of lyrics.

To balance the review, the album does have a few points which make me hesitate to give an extremely high rating. Firstly, although the repetition is not annoying, it does often give a sense of déjà vu, especially to fans acquainted with other albums. Secondly, the lack of technicality is not particularly inspiring, and may turn off some guitar-based listeners and those based in conventional song structure. Thirdly, this album received a lot of hype upon its release and despite being a good post-rock album, it is debatable as to whether it deserves all of its praise. Finally, repeat listens do not work well with this album, and I advise the listener to leave a gap between listens. Memory is important with regards to how much of this album you remember: the less you remember from previous spins, the more you get from it.

Still, both newcomers and regulars of post-rock can obtain something from this album, whether to use it to sleep, as background music for thinking or to enjoy in general. I certainly recommend “Your Hand In Mine”, that in itself makes the album worth it, and a reminder that the earth is not a cold dead place.

Rating: 8/10



4 responses

  1. Another band I've not heard before, the first listen was really good, although I think all of your criticisms are deserved. even though it was an instrumental, which again I don't tend to enjoy as much. I should probably try to find more post-rock bands as one of the few non-english vocalists I enjoy (Sigur Rós) and this instrumental piece really worked for me. Are there any groups you'd recommend?

    March 8, 2011 at 10:23 pm

  2. Post-rock is, for the most part, instrumental. Sigur Rós are a bit of an exception when it comes to the genre, and they mix in other styles as well!

    Well, I can recommend to you the ones that everybody knows, but I am not overly familiar with them.
    God Is An Astronaut is a good place to start, I've heard a few of their songs and they seem pretty cool. Also if you can find any of it, sleepmakeswaves and Maybeshewill are worth checking out, although they're not big bands by any means. I'll get back to you on whether Mogwai are worth checking out, I got their new album recently so I'll give it a spin.

    March 10, 2011 at 8:38 am

  3. Ok thanks for the tips, I'll try looking for stuff by all of them 🙂

    March 10, 2011 at 8:24 pm

  4. Pingback: REVIEW: Nuclear Summer – Nuclear Summer « In Angel's Headphones

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