by Matt Meade
Being a post-rock band is a thankless task. If you decide to form a metal, or jazz influenced rock band with no singer, you do so knowing that you will be no one’s favorite band. If you are more interested in layering textures than you are in snorting cocaine off of a groupie’s ass, you won’t end up on anyone’s t-shirt. If you know more about modals than denim vests, you won’t ever open for American Authors. If you form a post-rock outfit, you gotta do it cuz you love it. And Meadows loves it.
Meadows is a Latvian five piece (drums, electric guitar, electric guitar, bass, and fucking electric guitar) who do the things you are supposed to do if you are a post-rock band. They construct spiraling, melodious dirges that never really begin and never really end, they take small ideas and push them and toy with them until they are something new, and they pick song titles that could be on the cover of out-of-print science fiction novels.
The thing about post-rock is that when the vocalist gets out of the way, the music geeks in the band are free to do what they wish. What do the talented musicians in Meadows do when they have the space to try things they wouldn’t in a typical hard rock band? The fascinating thing is that without a lead singer to compete with, the musicians become minimalists, eschewing most effects except a healthy dose of reverb, and trading self-indulgent solos for huge, whole note strums designed to build tension. Most good instrumental rock bands stop with the dueling leads early in their existence and tend instead to become some kind of Richard Lloyd influenced construction crew, and Meadows is no different. I assume they worked out all the head-cutting before they pressed the record button because on their first EP they don’t compete for the spotlight, they help each other build to higher and higher heights like they are trying to achieve some modern day, metal influenced, phrygian scale supported Tower of Babel.
But the stuff they write isn’t esoteric in any way. It’s as accessible as it gets. The parts that they write could be the backdrop for a vocal straining ballad by someone like Daughtry or Bruno Mars. The song “Mornings” gently snakes through chiming, intertwined riffs that are quite subdued and pretty. Even the hyper aggressive bridge part at exactly the right time for a bridge doesn’t feel forced or obligatory. But this isn’t mere set dressing for a vocalist’s wounded plea.
Instead, “Mornings,” is a simple effort to evoke the sunrise, the smell of wet grass, the peace just before the world becomes populated again. Or at least that’s what it seems to evoke. There’s no vocalist to explain it to you, so it sort of belongs to you in ways that an Audioslave song never will.
This kind of storytelling is something fans of Pelican, or Tortoise are used to, but Meadows find ways on their five song EP to distinguish themselves. There are moments of warmth, where the music actually approximates heat glowing up off something metallic (although, for some reason the warmest moments come during a song called “Space”); there are moments of aspiration (the effects on “January 19th” are designed to build to some kind of catharsis); moments of anger (they try in earnest to aggravate your tinnitus on “66 + 6 = 666”), and it is all done thoughtfully and with an eye toward economy (their entire self-titled, name-your-price EP clocks in at under 20 minutes). There is competence to the arrangements and a peculiar vision to the progressions, like the repetition of the guitar lines is meant to advance some urgent, but exhausted communique. You should listen.
They are releasing a new record this summer.
Label: Even if they were signed to a label, I am sure I would not have the diacrtics necessary to list it here.