Statistics began as a side project from Desaparecidos co-founder Denver Dalley. The first outing, Leave Your Name was a slightly underdeveloped album from what was still a side project, full of electronic flourishes and some flashes of great songwriting. Often Lie builds on the debut, though it eschews the electronica for a more organic sound.
But what is it really?
A question I’ve been struggling with. I press play on my CD player, and though I’m immediately taken with the opening track, “Final Broadcast”, I lose interest almost as quickly as it came. There is no rational explanation for it. There is nothing offensive about Often Life. The songs are tight, robust confessionals. The guitars are enormous and at times the music swells to passionate levels. Yet for all this objective praise, the album keeps coming up short at the end. The final track, “9.10.22”, comes and goes as quickly as the album begins, and I’m left wondering what happened.
The opener, “Final Broadcast”, stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the songs on this album. Quickly strummed, clean guitars almost immediately give way to explosive ones. “I’m playing songs from all the bands that I love,” sings Dalley, “because no one ever calls in.” The radio station as a metaphor for solitude—it’s frequently used, but rarely gets old. The break two-thirds of the way through the songs finds Dalley breaking into a smooth groove, singing, “This will be my final broadcast / you could say we’re switching formats.” If it seems simple, it’s because it is, but there’s a subtle beauty in that. The simplicity actually makes the lyrics sound that much more sincere.
“Final Broadcast” is followed by “Nobody Knows Your Name”, and I immediately think that I’ve stumbled across an early Catherine Wheel recording, or maybe shelved demos from the Adam and Eve sessions. It is both exciting and slightly disheartening. I like Catherine Wheel and my ears perk up just a bit at the hint of its sound, but almost without fail, I am end up being disappointed. “Nobody Knows Your Name” and “Say You Will” are not exceptions. Despite promising beginnings, both songs drag and fizzle out at the end. And so begins the decline of the album.
Often Lie, even in its brevity, loses a lot of steam after the opening tracks. Midway through the album, Dalley begins to introduce some syncopated drum machines, distant and distorted. As a result the album slows to a crawl like Adore on Xanex. It never recovers. “9.10.22”, the final song on the album, is an instrumental that, in the right context, could have been a helluva way to end an album. Here it just seems a meandering conclusion to a decent, innocuous rock album.
Maybe the reason this album misses the mark for me is, for all of the good aspects of it, everything sounds just one degree “less good” than its influences. The guitar tone, while occasionally reaching great heights, stays at too-comfortable levels. The distortion is never as much as Catherine Wheel or the tone as thick as Smashing Pumpkins. The rhythm section is sound but overly cautious. And the vocals, though far from disappointing, never really inspire. Much like the album.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.