(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Album Review: CYMBALS – The Age of Fracture

By on Wednesday, 22nd January 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Cymbals The Age of Fracture coverLondon dance pop quartet CYMBALS are set to release their third album ‘The Age of Fracture’ next week, ahead of a short list of winter tour dates and an appearance at SXSW this spring. The album is at once centrifugal (“center-fleeing”) and centripetal (“center-seeking”) in nature, with visceral rhythms and pulsating bass providing the foundation for its cerebral lyrics and slick, sophisticated production by Dreamtrak (Oli Horton).

The album title is borrowed from a 2011 book by Princeton scholar Daniel T. Rodgers called ‘Age of Fracture’, which deals with the fragmentation of twentieth-century intellectualism and the increasingly uncertain concept of a collective societal identity. Singer and guitarist Jack Cleverly wrote in the press release for the album, “It hit me that I often feel paralysed by the feeling that everything is ‘too complicated’, and that many people I know feel that paralysis. I realised that this way of thinking can be traced through these songs.”‬‬ Cleverly addresses that paralysis directly in ‘The 5%’, singing, “time can be erased / you’re stupid if you try to stay in place”. The track defies the overriding idea of deconstruction by merging directly to the following subordinate track, ‘The Fracture of Age’.

The interpretation of such weighty subject matter is demanding for an album that is intended for club play, but despite the oppressive academic influence, Cleverly says the band strove for a lighter musical approach. “With this album I really wanted to get away from that and make music that makes people want to dance and feel joy. Neil’s kick drum is the most important thing we have to say as a band. Is this all ‘fun’? Yes, of course, but at the same time, not just that.”‬‬

‘The Natural World’, released as a single back in January 2013, plays more into that effortless pop feeling. Its nimble rhythms and light texture highlight the catchy chorus, “I don’t know enough about you / to be kind, to be kind to you / don’t you even think about me / just forget what you did, you see”. The accompanying video features the interpretation of French dancer Jaime Flor, with whom Cleverly became acquainted while growing up in Paris.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/PFakfGHF1ms[/youtube]

The sensual French influence is felt throughout the album, with lyrics en français on opening track ‘Winter ‘98’ and penultimate track ‘The End’. ‘Winter ‘98’ is a glacial synth-driven track which slowly expands into a crisp dance beat, immediately defining this album’s cleaner, brighter sound, as compared to CYMBALS’ previous LP’s ‘Sideways, Sometimes’ (2012) and ‘Unlearn’ (2011).

Standout track ‘This City’ returns somewhat to that earlier sound, depending more on guitars and organic percussion as it ponders “the whole ‘serious earnest-singer-songwriter thing’” that Cleverly has deliberately tried to avoid on ‘The Age of Fracture’. His boredom with the idea has, ironically, inspired some of the best lyrics on the album, including the opening hook, “ink-covered fingers, you’ve been hiding at your desk too long / hand over mouth, brandy in your tea / the afternoon’s all emptiness, the morning possibility.”

In what could have been the album’s final track, ‘The End’, CYMBALS come back around to the disco feel. Despite the purposefully detached lyric, “I don’t know the first thing about you / I don’t really know you that way / I just get this feeling from dancing / I don’t care about the display”, the track is followed by an plaintive instrumental plea entitled ‘Call Me.’

‘The Age of Fracture’ is, both lyrically and musically, centered around contradiction and fragmentation, but it manages to hold together as a cohesive and thought-provoking unit. The physical sensuality of the dance element is balanced by the “elegance and love in the language” of the vocal lines. (Have a listen below to the carnal pièce de résistance ‘Like An Animal’ for that lyrical gem.)

7.5/10

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfxwwboXFvE[/youtube]

‘The Age of Fracture’, CYMBALS’ new album on Tough Love Records, will be out next Monday, the 27th of January. They have a short English/Irish tour lined up for February; all the details are here. The band will also be showcasing this year’s SXSW.

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3 Responses

12:02 pm
22nd January 2014

(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Album Review: CYMBALS @CYMBALSmusic’s ‘The Age of Fracture’, out Monday (27/1) on @ToughLove: http://t.co/YOaXOGKOqN

12:48 pm
22nd January 2014

RT @tgtf: (SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Album Review: CYMBALS @CYMBALSmusic’s ‘The Age of Fracture’, out Monday (27/1) on @ToughLove: http://t.co/…

[…] on their latest album on Tough Love Records, ‘The Age of Fracture’. (Carrie reviewed it here.) A spinning skull, waving blades of grass, computerised pastoral scenes, robotic dogs and cats […]

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