I’ve noticed a reoccurring theme lately in the sphere of indie rock: a preoccupation with the natural world. You see it now and then in band names – Grizzly Bear, Wolf Parade, and New York’s Ghost Bunny come to mind – but, more and more, it’s showing up on the lyrics sheet as a major obsession. New Numbers has a song about the animal kingdom taking over from man, and the aforementioned Ghost Bunny has a track on their debut album about a guy who wanders around the city dressed in a lion suit. The Globes, a group that hails from Spokane, Washington, is just like these other outfits dressing up their sounds with a turn to the imagery of the rural wilderness. There are no less than three songs on the eight-song deep debut Future Self that signal this interest in base creature comforts: “Haunted by Bears”, “Pigeon”, and “Pretty Birds above Our Heads”. That’s not to speak of the fact that the song “Ghost” starts off with the lines: “Black crow / Perched on a wire / Calls out the name / Of the demons I’ve known”. I have to admit that I’m at a total loss for this seemingly environmentally cconscientious gaze in indie rock circles, what it means, and its deeper significance. Maybe these bands have just spent too much time in the city, and conjuring up green space images is just an escape.
What The Globes don’t have an escape hatch from on Future Self is the gloomy pessimism of the Pacific Northwest. This is more than evidenced from the opening verses of opener “Haunted by Bears”, which immediately begins with the lines “Stay where you are / You’re surrounded by bears / Hungry and eager to tear you apart / You could run but you know you’d get caught / You could play dead but you know that you are”. Not exactly the stuff that blasts away the doom of the perpetual rain that they get up there in Washington state. In fact, Future Self is a fairly morose record (and yet seemingly not morose enough), one that recalls the work of The Bends-era Radiohead crossed with the polished loud/soft dynamics of the latter day work of The Pixies, somewhere around Bossanova and Trompe le Monde, just without the heavy metal fireworks of said recordings. What’s more, The Globes take a turn into Led Zeppelin territory with the album’s final track, “Face Up Facing”, which has more than a passing resemblance to the grandiosity of “Kashmir”. (Upon thinking about it, the track also sounds a little bit like Canada’s The Tea Party in overall vibe.)
All in all, there is a sense of congealed sonic heft to be found on Future Self, and, for the most part, this record feels like an album, a statement, as there’s a real flow to the progression of the material at large, making the album feel a little claustrophobic at times. However, there’s the niggling feeling that all of this has been all done before, done better with a certain starkness that seems to be missing from Future Self. There’s something intangible that I can’t quite put my finger on, but for all of its craft and laboured construction, Future Self feels like an album that has been cast adrift, that its scope and ambition has gotten away from the band’s clutches. Put another way, while Future Self has a loftiness to it, there are very few individual songs that really stand out – everything is coated in a veneer of desperation, of an almost faux attempt at being down and out for the sheer sake of it. There’s a depth that just seems to be lacking, hooks that draw you in deeper and deeper into this downward spiral of almost hopelessness.
Maybe that assessment is a bit harsh, considering that Future Self isn’t that bad of a package. There are individual moments that rear their head every now and then that serve to remind the hoi polloi that the Globes are indeed capable of writing a good song. While the start of “Ghost” is a little bit too drifty for my liking, the band does eventually start playing for the back of the bleachers by the time the song unspools to its climax. “Pigeon” is a memorable track with galloping guitars and bluesy swagger. “Haunted by Bears” is, well, haunting—what more can be said? “A Stitch Couldn’t Save the World” has a groovy motion to it, streamlined and sleek, before the guitars crunch in birdlike squalor. However, the album drifts away the further you get into it, and you can practically smell the valium fumes wafting off of the latter tracks. From the mid-point onward, there just seems to be bits and pieces that feel particularly memorable as opposed to full bodied songs. What’s more, Future Self feels like a concept album in need of a concept, and keeps the listener at arm’s length. You find yourself wanting to find something more penetrating, something that would allow you to get drawn into the lyrics, but everything just feels like mere words to pad the slippery shifting music.
After listening to Future Self multiple times, I got the sense that it might work best as space-rock, stuff that is dressing to the background of your particularly down and dreamy, not-quite-suicidal-but-close, mood. Therein lies a bit of the frustration with the record: You just want it to be starker and more drenched with feeling. There’s anger to be found here – “Pigeon” has the chorus of “You’re perpetually fucked, fucked in the head”, and “Stay Awake” boasts “I’m fucking around with nothing to do” – but it feels lightweight. For an album that is preoccupied with all of the dreaded wonders of life in the woods, there’s a holding back, of not going full bore into the particulars of one’s basest instincts. Future Self simply lacks emotion, any heart, any soul – which is the most damning and frustrating thing about it. It is an enjoyable album, but you just want more from it than it actually delivers.
When all is said and done, Future Self certainly has the DNA of something engaging, but the band just doesn’t seem to pull it all together into a grand statement. Maybe it has something to do with the relative brevity of it being just eight songs long, maybe it has to do with its gray mood rather than outright blackness. And, yes, maybe it has something to do with this reviewer’s own particular feeling at the time of writing this – seeing that I’m currently between contracts in the job world and am feeling just a little bit blue about my current lack of employment. Ergo, I suppose that if you’re going to get down and depressed on me musically, I right now kind of expect the emotional holocaust of something like the Cure’s Pornography. (Don’t worry, dear reader, I’m fine and I know my moods enough to know this is just a passing phase.) So take my words with a grain of salt, and the realization that, for me, Future Self just comes across as a merely adequate statement than anything startling and worth writing home about. There’s something here, but it just doesn’t plumb as low as it should. I don’t want to write the band off or sound dismissive, yet while Future Self is not quite something for the birds, to quote the band’s own lyrics in “Stay Awake”: “I want something more from you”.
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// Notes from the Road
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