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I took this record to Tesco. Well, every little does help when five-year-old demons are running amok about your feet and the bread aisle is full of the most indecisive fatties eyes have ever seen. In the chaos of an early evening shop it made a minute impression, and so unmoved by the experience – two of them by the time the bus had dropped me on my doorstep – was I that I left it in the To Do pile for weeks.
And then I listened to Pelican’s new record properly. Call me old fashioned, but a little time apart is an essential component of any lasting relationship; the intention was to find love anew after a trial separation.
So what’s different after a couple of concentrated listens? The honest answer: little. Believe me when I say that I wanted The Fire In Our Throats… to be special; as soon as it came into my possession my fingers and forearms were a-tingle, the hairs erect, my body primed in absolute anticipation - the same feeling one associates with the first stages of youthful love. I wanted it to tear strips off last year’s Great Instru-Metal Rock Release, Isis’s Panopticon. I wanted it to reinstall my faith in post-rock after a year of so-so efforts treading all-too-familiar paths of clean arpeggio over minimal inspiration. I wanted more than I got. What I got…
…Isn’t completely bereft of the beautiful and moving, granted: opener ‘Last Day Of Winter’ is a triumphant romp full of intertwined polyrhythms and titanic slabs of contrasting light and shade, the effect beguiling and intoxicating. Its gradual build – the hum of a mighty sports car on ignition slowed to a snail’s pace – climaxes five and a half minutes in, in a fit of malevolent feedback, cymbals crashing like tidal waves on a sky-scraping rock face. The acoustic closing minute is the necessary antiseptic ointment applied with the softest cotton wool, ears nurtured back to a state of health after what is, ultimately, this album’s most spectacular sonic assault.
Picking highlights from hereon in however is tough: ‘March To The Sea’ ups the complexity stakes somewhat, and ‘Sirius’ sees the album to its conclusion with Tristeza-like grace. But much of what lies between points A and B is little more than textbook post-rock given a light metallic sheen – ‘Red Ran Amber’, for example, is a scraping from the very depths of this band’s previously considered bottomless creative barrel. What last long-player Australasia promised – a bright future at the forefront of the instrumental rock scene; successful live shows reinforced the feeling – has not been capitalised upon; there is simply too much of too little here to warrant the kind of praise one expected to be heaping atop another Pelican album. Some corners of the press appear to have listened to The Fire In Our Throats… through rose-coloured headphones, such has been their unadulterated acclaim for what is ultimately 30 minutes of genius horribly blighted by another 30 of derivative dribble.
Not here. Here our headphones deliver nothing but gritty realism and home truths: we should have remained apart.
Next time I’m loading up my basket to the sound of Minor Threat. That’ll have the mini-beasts scampering back to their mothers and the aisle-clogging tubs retreating to the safety of the cake counter.
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