Reviews

Pelican: After the Ceiling Cracked [DVD]

This DVD is a lovingly-crafted reminder of just how essential Pelican are as a live band.


Pelican

After the Ceiling Cracked

MPAA rating: N/A
Label: Hydra Head
UK Release Date: 2008-14-01
US Release Date: 2008-22-01
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Pelican's third album, City of Echoes, was a somewhat drab affair. While by no means a bad album, per se, it presented an almost watered-down version of Pelican's sound, largely lacking in the perfect moments of synchronised grandeur, beauty and brutality that made the Chicago quartet seem hitherto so vital. It may not be an intentional one, but After the Ceiling Cracked, which for the first times translates the renowned Pelican live experience into a cinematic one, is a both reaffirmation (via contrast) of that third opus's deficiencies and, more importantly, a reminder of the qualities that raised the bar for them in the first place. Made up largely of live material from Pelican's two earlier albums, After the Ceiling Cracked is an exposition of the vitality in which City of Echoes was generally lacking.

The main course here is a full live show from back in December 2005, at London's Kings Cross Scala venue, while the trimmings are concocted primarily of various live footage collected from 2003 onwards. The focus is very much on the music, rather than the people who make it. It's an obvious cliché but, as you would expect from a band like Pelican, the music does the talking. The Kings Cross show, for example, is unashamedly 'no frills', and is all the better for it. In the absence of any ostentatious camerawork or gimmickry, centre stage is simply occupied by four young men, enrobed in blue light, veering from entranced concentration to wild abandon to the ebb and flow of their compositions.

It's especially captivating to see such cerebral people caught up in the moment, as they are throughout. Eyes are closed, heads are flung with scant regard for the grey matter within, and you get the sense that nothing -- absolutely nothing -- matters to Pelican at that moment, bar wringing every last drop of noise from their instruments. Several times -- like when "March into the Sea" begins to free the restraints of its ambient respite and pick up the pace once more, or "Sirius" grows ever more chaotic towards its conclusion -- the spine tingles. It's not hard to see why this show has garnered a reputation.

But while the band members' visible catharsis is entrancing, the Scala show is perhaps most interesting from the point of view of a musician, or at least someone with an active interest in the creation and execution of compositions. For After the Ceiling Cracked's focused camerawork highlights the intricacies of Pelican's music, from well-trained hands constructing complex riffs right down to the footwork that coaxes out glassy shards of delicate noise via "pedal wankery", as the band themselves term it. It certainly makes for more interesting viewing than the shots of row upon row of hairy head-banging presented by many rock DVDs.

As for the 'extras', if you want to call them that (for they make up over half of As the Ceiling Cracked); these are generally of high quality, too. The interview with Laurent Lebec and Larry Herweg is mildly diverting, though hardly deeply insightful and is marred by a poor sound that leaves you strained to hear each word. But this is the only real disappointment. After the Ceiling Cracked is a disc quite evidently made simply for lovers of Pelican's music, and so that's what it provides, by the truckload. With live footage spanning all of Pelican's three albums, and their self-titled debut EP, it is nothing if not broad-ranging.

Of particular interest, Scala set aside, is the gleefully sinister video accompanying "Autumn Into Summer" and footage from 2003 of a performance of "Forecast For Today" and "The Woods", two tracks from the early self-titled debut. As you might expect, the sound is a little murky here, but the compensatory intrigue of seeing Pelican's earlier material fleshed out live (especially when placed alongside their more matured material as it is here) makes them a worthy inclusion, particularly for the (presumably many, given the contrast in attendance with the Scala show) people who missed out on their early years.

Also included is a wealth of images spanning tours and recording sessions, but these are really just the icing on the cake. The real draw here was always going to be the live footage, and the Scala show in particular. And, given the quality of that particular set, After the Ceiling Cracked was always onto a winner. That said, the disc is lovingly crafted, and capably walks the line between providing fans with a wealth of material and refraining from including grainy old footage that really should have remaining gathering dust in the archives. If City of Echoes frustrated you, After the Ceiling Cracked might just remind you of what made Pelican so special in the first place.

8
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

"I'm an Audience Member, Playing This Music for Us": An Interview With Keller Williams

Veteran musician Keller Williams discusses his special relationship with the Keels, their third album together, Speed, and what he learned from following the Grateful Dead.

Books

Shintaro Kago's 'Dementia 21' Showcases Surrealist Manga

As much as I admire Shintaro Kago's oddness as a writer, his artistic pen is even sharper (but not without problems) as evident in Dementia 21.

Music

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad Proclaim 'Jazz Is Dead!' Long Live Jazz!

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad bring their live collaborative efforts with jazz veterans to recorded life with Jazz Is Dead 001, a taste of more music to come.

Film

"I'll See You Later": Repetition and Time in Almodóvar's 'All About My Mother'

There are mythical moments in Almodóvar's All About My Mother. We are meant to register repetition in the story as something wonderfully strange, a connection across the chasm of impossibility.

Music

Electropop's CMON Feel the Noise on 'Confusing Mix of Nations'

Pop duo CMON mix and match contemporary and retro influences to craft the dark dance-pop on Confusing Mix of Nations.

Music

'Harmony' Is About As Bill Frisell As a Bill Frisell Recording Can Be

Bill Frisell's debut on Blue Note Records is a gentle recording featuring a few oddball gems, particularly when he digs into the standard repertoire with Petra Haden's voice out front.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 4, James Chance to the Pop Group

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part four with Talking Heads, the Fall, Devo and more.

Music

Raye Zaragoza's "Fight Like a Girl" Shatters the Idea of What Women Can and Can't Do (premiere)

Singer-songwriter and activist Raye Zaragoza's new single, "Fight Like a Girl", is an empowering anthem for intersectional feminism, encouraging resilience amongst all women.

Music

VickiKristinaBarcelona Celebrate Tom Waits on "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (premiere)

VickiKristinaBarcelona celebrate the singular world of Tom Waits their upcoming debut, Pawn Shop Radio. Hear "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" ahead of tomorrow's single release.

Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.