Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pelican - City of Echoes (2007)

Chicago's Pelican return this year with their best output yet. They've stepped up their game a bit and produced a much denser, more compact album, clocking in at one track more yet 15 minutes shorter than their 2005 record The Fire in Our Throats will Beckon the Thaw. City of Echoes needs no human voice or lyrical guidance to take us on their sonic voyage, the intertwining guitars lead us where they will while flanked by the refreshingly-prominent bass and (to a lesser extent) the drums. The drumming isn't terrible, but is pretty basic and often doesn't quite seem to fit with the flowing melodies around it. At times the drummer can almost ruin moments set up by the strings with some not-quite-appropriate beats, though to be fair he does a solid job in the album's faster and more intense sections.

Our boys in Pelican begin us on our journey to the City of Echoes with the slow-fast-slow flow of Bliss in Concrete which sounds as if it's almost an emotional recollection of a trip into the City itself, beginning with a slow and heavy yet relaxing section worthy of a night-time drive over an empty highway. The song builds as we come into town and finally explodes at the headbanging 3:25 mark into what I can only imagine as the sudden shock of urban chaos after a long drive before bringing us to park in the City of Echoes, a song with a particular bouncy catchiness I don't hear often in this kind of music.

Most of the eight songs on this record are memorable, such as the aforementioned two tracks and the great Spaceship Broken - Parts Needed as well as the exquisitely tranquil late-game Far From Fields and the beautiful, soothing closer A Delicate Sense of Balance. Pelican's knack for evocative song titles certainly doesn't hurt.

Some Pelican fans may not like the more compact nature of the album, but I consider it an improvement. City of Echoes is a leaner record that yet manages to give you more to chew than their prior efforts. There are a couple of boring bits and the drummer can be kind of irritating at times, but the album's strong points easily outnumber the weak. All fans of atmospheric, melodic rock and metal should at least hear this, if not own it.


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