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Eulogies

Tear the Fences Down

(Dangerbird; US: 22 Mar 2011; UK: Import)

Eulogies is the extension of songwriter Peter Walker, who released two solo records in the early 2000s, then created Eulogies, a trio, out of members of his touring backup band. Now a quartet, this is their third full-length.


Being a quartet strikes me as strange, because the songs on Tear the Fences Down almost never feel completely fleshed-out. There’s often an emptiness, sometimes so glaring as to be unpleasant, or the nagging need for something more in the mix. A lot of people will dig this stripped-down sound, but considering I’m saying this about a band who aren’t afraid to belt out lush, three-part vocal harmonies, I think a fuller sound would only benefit them—possibly greatly.


Nevertheless, we have what we have, and Tear the Fences Down has its ups and downs, and if I sound uninspired it’s because that’s kinda how the record feels. It is not bad. It is something I would recommend to certain people. But it’s not something that’s going to get lodged in my gulliver; in fact, my notes are essential, because I’ll be damned if I truly remember any of these songs.


On their weakest tracks (“You Hide”, “Little Bombs”, “Better Than Nothing”), the complaints are usually the same, my notes becoming repetitive. “Uninspired.” “Lackadaisical.” “Average.” “Amateurish.” Things, you know, a band should save for their odds ‘n’ sods collections, or keep hidden away forever. It’s not that songs like these are offensive or cause me to choke on bile, they’re just… dull.


Yet there are some very good things happening here, many paradoxical moments of originality and excellence. The title track is upbeat and lots of fun, with great textures filling your ears in a melodic, post-punk/psych-folk hybrid. “Will I” again has psychedelic flourishes, and comes across as a totally successful blend of, believe it or not, Liars and late-era Sebadoh. “Little Else to Say” showcases a sound that could’ve put Eulogies on the bill with the likes of the Dream Syndicate, the Jet Black Berries, the Feelies, Meat Puppets, even Rank & File (all in the mid-‘80s, to be more specific). “How to Say Goodbye” has the indie rock sound and aesthetic, but makes it more intriguing with those Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies I mentioned before, and even castanets! “Out of Style, Out of Touch” smacks of the Strokes’ debut, unfortunately without those trust-fund babies’ knack for melodies.


Which brings me to another reason for the mediocrity of the songs mentioned a paragraph before. No melodies, or should I say, no engaging melodies. This isn’t experimental rock—gimme something mellifluous, my brothers! What I would like to hear from Eulogies next time ‘round is some beefed-up production, some extra layers of sound, and a more melodic focus. I can hear they have what it takes to achieve consistent excellence; for me, it just didn’t happen on this effort.

Rating:

Stephen Rowland has been founding and contributing to numerous underground film and music publications for the last 12 years. In addition to critiquing images and sounds, he makes no money as a regional historian and preservationist, co-authoring "Postcard History Series: Alameda" and "Images of America: Alameda," available from Arcadia Publishing.


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