Anberlin Does as much dismantling as repairing
Posted August 03, 2008
While Anberlin was one of the many Tooth and Nail’s pick ups, there is nothing ordinary about this alternative rock band. Putting out singles like “(The Symphony Of) Blasé” and "Paperthin Hymn" has helped with getting their name out but touring with some of the top mainstream bands like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Yellowcard certainly could not have hurt either. The recognition is helpful but the their latest album, Cities, stands on it’s own.
The very first track on Cities is “(Debut)”, an instrumental track which showcases sirens built around a cool (as in icy) electric guitar frame. The sirens tells listeners that Anberlin has something to say with a sense of urgency behind it and the calm and controlled electric guitar bit says that Aberlin is also in control. Lead singer Stephen Christian brings his emotional high vocals to mixes in with alternative rock that is just pumping with emergency. That combo is a great, because the most of the rock music is fast paced and Christian’s voice is a tremendous asset in a formula that is similar to Dogwood in some songs. “Godspeed” starts with a frantic electric guitar intro, which is followed up well by aggressive vocals and a very fast paced melodic rock tune. Emotion is bursting from "adelaide", an alternative track which packs a has a good flow. Christian sounds like he can carry a song even without many instruments as shown in the beginning of "Dismantle. Repair." before turning into a solid rock tune.
"The Unwinding Cable Cars" music is centered around a guitar in one of the albums few ballads, and that’s too bad because the soft moments in Cities shine. While parts of "There Is No Mathematics to Love and Loss" are impressive (like the electric start and the techno bridge), the song is repetitive and not as impressive as other tracks. “Hello alone” is classic Anberlin and “a Whisper and A Clamor" is a sparkling alternative rock track that deserves many spins. The ending to this musical accomplishment is aptly named “(*Fin)” a nearly nine minute song which starts softly (never lacking emotion) until the song kicks into gear to become a emotional rock song instead of an emotional ballad. The end does drag on but the chorus of voices in the background helps the overall artistry of the song and album.
Desiring to be more than a simple rock and roll band dealing in temporal things Christian says “When I look back on my life, I want it to have meaning”, he also goes on to say he wants to invest in people’s lives. An admirable effort and his lyrics do offer hope in tracks like "The Unwinding Cable Car” where the singer offers help to a friend (This is the correlation of salvation and love…I'll guard your heart/ with quiet words I'll lead you in"). “Dismantle. Repair.” hopes knows for better times and says ‘Save me from myself’ (it’s unclear if it’s God or a friend he is talking to).
(*Fin)” is a very convicting song about sacrificing wives and children on wasted efforts for Christ (‘We're not questioning God./Just those he chose to carry on His cross.’) but the song is not without faults with the ill meant line ("Wish your drinking would hurry and kill you"). While still majoring on the subject of hope "Hello Alones’" path to get there is murky (‘Depression is the unholy ghost ... I've got the gun/ All I need is 10 cents for the bullet’). "Reclusion" gets a little dark while talking about the battle with inner demons with weird metaphors like killing people and strangling lovers. And the line on “Godspeed” is edgy ‘When needles and lovers collapse on guilty beds’.
Anberlin has gotten much better. Not that they were bad to begin with but the hard line vocals and the cutting edge alternative rock is among the best this writer has heard. But switching from Tooth and Nail to a lager mainstream label and performing with Fall out Boy and My Chemical Romance may have rubbed off on Cities the wrong way. Lyrically murky but musically powerful. What has the greater pull? (that’s a rhetorical question by the way).
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