Friday, December 31, 2010

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU - As Tall As Lions (2009)

My first encounter with As Tall As Lions was at Coachella 2010. 

I was in my typical early afternoon tent-hopping mode, had hustled in to catct the start of their set before racing over to the Outdoor Theater to see the Avett Brothers, and was immediately blown away by the band's Radiohead-caliber control of sonics, their aggressive, technically awe-inspiring musicianship, and lead-singer Daniel Nigro's soaring, Jeff Buckley-like voice.

Passionate and swaggering, they were one of the best early afternoon acts I've ever seen in all my years of attending the festival

But something else also stuck with that me that day.  Turning to the young couple standing next to me, I enthusiastically stated, "These guys are amazing!"

To which they replied, "Yeah, we see them every time they're at a fest we go to, but they are way better live than they are on album."

Sadly, that pretty much sums up my review of their 2009 album You Can't Take It With You.

Based out of Brooklyn, As Tall As Lions creates a type of intricate, sonically adventurous music that tries to mine the middle ground between Coldplay at their most accessible and Radiohead at their artiest and most avant-garde.

And while it's interesting to see a band as instrumentally talented and daring as this try to simultaneously hit the sweet spot of two very different extremes, and can be electric when they succeed (as they do here on album opener Circles and the fantastic In Case Of Rapture), the end result is usually the opposite...hard-to-digest, muddy tracks that neither pace or play off each well, where all the art-rock elements bury the hooks, and the commercial elements dilute the art-rock intrigue.

So after seeing that blistering live set, a very disappointed Not Recommended on this one. 

The album has a few stunning moments, and if you're a huge fan of other groups that walk this same fine "arty vs. commercial" Radioheadish line like Elbow, Muse, Mutemath, Minus the Bear, or One EskimO, you might find enough here to make a full-on purchase worthwhile, but for the rest, I'd simply classify You Can't Take It With You as one of those very ambitious efforts that just didn't quite come together.

Status: Not Recommended.

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: CirclesGo Easy, In Case Of Rapture, Is This Tomorrow?.

Here's the official video for Circles.

Component Breakdown:
1. Circles - 8
2. Sixes & Sevens - 5
3. You Can't Take It With You - 6
4. Go Easy - 6
5. Duermete - 5
6. In Case Of Rapture - 8
7. We's Been Waitin' - 6
8. Is This Tomorrow? - 7
9. Sleepyhead - 6
10. The Narrows - 5
11. Lost My Mind - 4
Intangibles - Very Low.

What are your thoughts on As Tall As Lions's You Can't Take It With You?

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