Wednesday, June 27, 2012

REVIEW: We Can't Enjoy Ourselves - Make A Mess of Sacred Ground

We Can't Enjoy Ourselves - Make A Mess of Sacred Ground

Indie pop: the most charming of musical genres. It’s accessible, catchy, melodious, and seemingly simplistic – an easy listen that bears replay on account of its spirited pacing. It can lean more towards good ‘ol rock ‘n’ roll or indulge in more innocent, light-hearted affair. It’s a genre that handles melancholy and heartbreak with a graceful brilliance, molding it into something that can be just as charming as newfound love. For a perfect example of this balance, look no further than New York’s We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves’ debut album, Make A Mess of Sacred Ground. Amplifier tubes heating up with jangly chord progressions? Check. Musical acuity for mixing sounds of the present with those of decades past? Check. Witty lyrics on everything from heartache to aging? Check. Here we go.

Helmed by one Giovanni Saldarriaga, We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves takes indie pop and adds a good deal of depth with a bit of soul and ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll clean-cut perfection. Make A Mess of Sacred Ground sounds like David Byrne singing with Morrissey’s tuneful glum as he leads a band comprising members of Belle & Sebastian and The Attractions. It’s the sound of old school authenticity with modern day wit – it feels like when a sound, or element of the past, seems more relevant and meaningful than anything surrounding you in the present. And much like indie pop’s duality, Make A Mess of Sacred Ground sounds upbeat and charming but, like the title might imply, takes a hammer to that veneer of naïve cheer, the sacred ground. Written out, that comes across as terribly morose, but, in reality, it really gives the album a sense of sincerity with its inexplicably alluring realism. The lyrics play foil to the music, and it works in a compelling manner.

Opener "Winsome William" is a snappy cut about generational gaps and the tangled connection between past, present, and future. The title track is a gallop of pummeling hi-hat, tom drums, and rattling guitar chords that perfectly captures the confusion and frustration of dealing with the truth. "Bring the Bastards Down" sounds like it would be a rather depressing and angry song, but it's one of the more fervent, fast-paced songs on the album. It's a dash of snare rolls, slices of hi-hat, and furiously strummed guitar chords all revolving around like the wheels of a speeding '57 Corvette, one that's barely hugging a road lining the edge of a steep cliff: beautiful tension. Single and album closer "Devil In the Old Folks Home" is the rock 'n' roll antagonist to the 1950's wholesomeness, breaking up the uniformity and cracking its innocence – the sound of discovering a new sense of freedom.

Make A Mess of Sacred Ground is consistently strong throughout, but it’s more of a stepping stone for We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves than an absolutely defining statement. Not a bad thing by any means, as it only proves that this is a band with a lot of potential to hone their trademark sound into something that songwriters in the future will reference, much like Saldarriaga has here with the pop, rock, and folk of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Make A Mess of Sacred Ground is the sound of finding the bizarre joy in rebuilding from disaster, from a loss that introduces itself as the end of everything. As the band states in their bio on Facebook,"They loved, but they were not loved. Their lives ended in disaster." Sometimes, finding the beauty in pain is difficult, but it's also terribly rewarding. Life may be bringing them down, but We Can't Enjoy Ourselves have a lot of good musical fortune on the horizon.

Hear We Can't Enjoy Ourselves' debut album Make A Mess of Sacred Ground in its entirety below. You can pick it up here via iTunes or direct from 4-3 Records right here.

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