Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There Are Mountains

by Katherine

cymbals-eat-guitars-why-there-are-mountains-2008(Originally Posted at

Droll Lou Reed quotes be damned, for me, the band name ‘Cymbals Eat Guitars’ is completely at odds with the mood of their debut album ‘Why There Are Mountains’ –  ‘Cymbals Eat Guitars’ conjures up something clashing and conflicting, and insufferably violent– which is perhaps the antithesis of the emotions I felt while listening to ‘Why There Are Mountains’ – although there are moments of chaotic sonic assault, the most surprising thing about this record is the sense of harmony conveyed; ‘Why There Are Mountains’ is glorious not only in it’s ceaseless experimentalism and skilled instrumentation, but also in it’s feeling of utter completeness – it is simply as perfect as an indie-rock record can get.

‘…And The Hazy Sea’ launches straight in on the offensive – and hype aside, it’s utterly gorgeous, it’s unashamedly anthemic chorus reeling on giddy torrents of fuzzed guitars and twinkling piano lines. It’s an increasingly rare moment of climatic, ecstatic euphoria in the genre of indie-rock, and one that should be treasured. Winningly, Cymbals Eat Guitars don’t immediately change their pace after the exuberance of the opener, but instead let the euphoria reverberate through the next track, the breathless, Pavement-esque ‘Some Trees’.

Even more remarkable is the gorgeous ‘Indiana’, which finds Ferocious matching (or arguably exceeding) the lyrical dexterity of Andrew Bird, summoning such imagery as ‘The tundra cracked under us and ruptured/ To reveal palisades made of grey, grey, bristling grass and papulose linen’ and ‘…Cellar stairways/Vermiculated with delicate animal bone’. If it isn’t enough that ‘Indiana’ is lyrically compelling, then the instrumentation is bound to grip you – ‘Indiana’ begins swathed in dark, opaque reams of noise, which melts effortlessly into lush horns and a highly melodious piano line. For a moment, Cymbals Eat Guitars sound indie-pop – until the whole thing explodes into a knotty synth-line and pounding percussion. ‘Why There Are Mountains’ adamant refusal to relax into any kind of rut is what has garnered Cymbals Eat Guitars universal, gushing phrase – including the coveted ‘best new music’ accolade from music behemoth Pitchfork – and what makes ‘Why There Are Mountains’ an undeniably fantastic record.

For an indie-rock record, ‘Why There Are Mountains’ is surprisingly varied –climbing strings carry ‘Cold Mountains’ to new, icy heights, and ‘Wind Phoenix’ is delightfully volatile – one minute a sweet, horn-embellished pop ditty, the next a screaming, hair-raising, indie-rock assault. The kind of same technique is used on album closer ‘Like Blood Does’ – Cymbals Eat Guitars let the song fall into sweeping, chaotic disarray, before skilfully reeling it back in, and calming the squall into a hushed piano ballad.

The truly wonderful thing about ‘Why There Are Mountains’ is that it very rarely goes wrong – perhaps the unsettling emptiness of ‘What Dogs See’ lingers for a tad too long, but it’s a tiny blip on the beautiful, cinematic landscape of this remarkable record. Don’t let the hype dispirit you – indie rock is back and it’s beautiful.