As Tall As Lions

You Can't Take It With You

Written by: TL on 17/11/2009 23:15:40

At present moment in my reviewing career, having done the 'job' since 2006, I am proud to say that I can pretty steadily produce between four and eight reviews in a week, getting an fair understanding of the average rock record in about the same number of listens. And I know this will sound jaded or shallow or whatever, but truth be told, it can be quite disruptive when the God of rock'n'roll then throws me a curve ball proper - A record which demands ages worth of play time, before it will reveal the extent of its quality. One such record is of course the subject of this review, namely "You Can't Take It With You", the third LP from Long Island quartet As Tall As Lions. I have given this album more spins than I care to count over the last week and a half, and in all honesty, I'm still not sure I really grasp it, but alas, the show must go on, so here's my shot at a review.

With such an introduction, you might figure that this is somewhat more of a complex thing than the average rock record, and indeed, describing to a newcomer, the sound of As Tall As Lions is no small feat. In fact, I doubt I could suggest a fulfilling description, but what I can do, is mention to you some of the thoughts that come to mind as I listen to "You Can't Take It With You". First the vocals, which main man Dan Nigro (also on guitar and piano) delivers with an emitted feeling of complete control, bringing to mind delicate voices like that of Bono (U2), Chris Martin (Coldplay) and Gavin Hayes (Dredg) - Maybe also more scene singers like those of In:Aviate or Tides Of Man? As for instrumentals, this record is diverse enough to make that harder to nail head on, but again, it is mainly Dredg's mature experimentalism that comes to mind. In fact, if you could conceive Dredg as an experimental version of Coldplay, it would be accurate to also think of ATAL as an experimental version of Dredg, since the soundscapes, at least on this record, are even more ambitious and atmospheric. People who listened to the most recent U2 record and sometimes felt that it was like staring into the clouds on a slow day, will all have a slight idea of what I'm on about.

On a record full of music sounding like that, the best moments come (yes, I know I'm predictable) mostly when the band is at its loudest and/or fastest. In such a manner, "Circles" open up the record nicely, but a better highlight is without question the centrepiece "In Case Of Rapture", which, apart from being the main reason for my U2 comparison, also impresses with a fantastically memorable refrain;

"Why can't you see, it's better to die on your feet, than live down on your knees"

As with all rules though, there is an exception, here in the form of the title track, the dragged out beat of which can't compare to the energy of the two songs I mentioned before it. Instead it brands itself into your brain by means of lingering, middle-eastern sounding notes and lazy vocal work, and as its chorus comes in, you get a feeling I imagine is similar to stumbling into an oasis after having wandered around lost in some desert.

However, there are also moments on this record towards which I am slightly more ambivalent. These are mainly located in the slowest of tracks, like "Sleepyhead", "Duermete" and "Lost My Mind". It's not that the songs are bad, no, in fact they are beautiful in their own way, however, if you thought doom metal was slow, you may think again. These tracks take their time so confidently that they might possibly put a heavy metaller to sleep faster than an album of Gregorian chants. I can't justly claim these are bad songs, because they betray tremendous artistic confidence, but they certainly do challenge the patience of even devout music fans, and I can't help but to think that bands like Lydia and Gracer manage to compose pieces of similar beauty, in a manner that never feels as drawn out as these pieces.

This isn't nearly as important to my final verdict however, as are the eight other tracks of the albums, which I have this far failed to mention. These songs see ATAL toy with other nuances of their expression, and while they have the same consistent feeling of quality as the ones I've highlighted, they have still failed to make as distinct an impression on me as the others, and as is often the case I also wonder here, if ATAL hadn't been better served cutting a few tracks, lining the stronger ones up with less space in between. Regardless of what one things of that perspective, I think that we can all agree that this record definitely is not for everyone ('instant gratification' must be a sin in the bible of this band), but if you're one with a taste for experimental music, this is probably an album you should strongly consider picking up.

Download: In Case Of Rapture, Circles, You Can't Take It With You
For The Fans Of: Dredg, Three, U2, The Receiving End Of Sirens, Coldplay
Listen: myspace.com/astallaslions

Release Date 18.08.2009
Triple Crown Records

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