Album Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There Are Mountains

by Pouria Yazdi on October 2, 2009

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I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how to approach this review. It’s not that Why There Are Mountains from Cymbals Eat Guitars is a particularly bad album; there are some real good things about it. But listening to it is like being in a bad relationship, let me explain.

Raw lo-fi sounds tend to add a bit of street cred to albums. It’s akin to the old blues musicians who had shit guitars with horrible acoustics, but the way the ply their craft was unsurpassed. So when a band these days uses lo-fi recording styles I tend to give it more of a chance. I really wanted to like Cymbals Eat Guitars, but just like a shitty girlfriend, it changed its tune far too much.

Why There Are Mountains has some really unique things about: sudden changes in tempo, style, and feel. This makes me think, “Wow, there is just something about this album that might make it really cool.” But as time goes on and I listen to the album even more I realize it is a schizophrenic album that took me for granted. I go back and revisit other albums that treat me well and I think to myself, “This is what I need in my life.” I realize that Why There Are Mountains, while good times were had, wasn’t a good fit.

It’s almost as if Cymbals Eat Guitars don’t have a sound or style they’re comfortable with. “And the Hazy Sea” is a mish-mash of tonal experimentation that at times feels like an early Modest Mouse track but misses the mark. The vocals from Joseph D’Agostino frequently get in the way and throw me out of the rhythm of the track.

“Some Trees” alternates between ’60’s psychedelic rock and Weezer-esque alterna. Cymbals Eat Guitars seem to embrace disorganization and auditory confusion.

“Cold Spring,” my favorite track on the album, gives me the odd feeling that it’s like the indie equivalent of a hard-rock love ballad. Move over Whitesnake.

I imagine that seeing Cymbals Eat Guitars live would consist of them spending half their time in front of their speakers distorting sounds, standing still, and fucking around with dials. It wouldn’t be worth it for me.

Strangely, the clunky keys on “Share” sounds like it was borrowed from The Streets “The Strongest Person I Know.” Seriously, listen to one after the other.

Albums like Why There Are Mountains have certain qualities that make you want to like them. They give you just enough decent sound to where you trick yourself into thinking it’s really trying to mark some ground. But then you go and listen to albums you know rock, and you realize you’ve wasted your time.

Overall the album falls short for me. Why There Are Mountains lacks a clear personality and although it’s at times good, won’t be visited again in my playlists.

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