Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The Violent Blue - Electric President
The Violent Blue
Fake Four Records.
SCQ Rating: 87%
One great album reflects a great album; two great albums suggest a great band. At least that’s the way I’ve always seen it, and anticipating Electric President’s follow-up to Sleep Well – a record that landed #1 on SCQ’s Top Albums of 2008, and recently #27 on SCQ’s Top Fifty Albums of the 00s – had me dancing between the fine details that separate one-off brilliance from long-term artistic integrity. That Electric President prove themselves capable of building a legacy, underappreciated as it currently is, with The Violent Blue isn’t a huge surprise to me – after all, Ben Cooper’s giveaway project Patients had me completely smitten last year – but how this new album reveals facets of the Jacksonville duo’s unheard strengths is truly a surprise.
Originally planned as a B-side release from the Sleep Well sessions, The Violent Blue earned its own coattails as Cooper’s love-letter to the ocean, where he spent much of this past summer swimming and writing. Ever the masters in sequencing, Cooper and Alex Kane treat The Violent Blue as if a massive body of water, arranging tracks that surge then swell, in waves that either crest or topple. In that respect, ‘The Ocean Floor’ merely laps the coast; ushered in on lethargic acoustic chords and sweet ambience, it tenders a calm that largely pervades the record’s first half. Not to say that these tracks are anything less than arresting. ‘Feathers’ is arguably the band’s most accessible love song and ‘Safe and Sound’, while sticking with the acoustic and piano, provides The Violent Blue’s first significant wave with a bright campfire-esque song Sleep Well couldn’t have imagined. For those listeners hoping this audible calm foreshadows a storm, Electric President don’t disappoint, incorporating blasts of electric guitars among their graceful doses of haze. If the title track’s climactic release finds Cooper and Kane touching upon shoegaze, their distortion-loving eruption at the start of ‘Eat Shit and Die’ begs the question of how these guys disciplined themselves to synths so strictly on the last album. While heavier in nature, The Violent Blue’s second half plays out a series of lovely, unsettled ripples that feel like a needed, natural progression.
As Electric President balance their ferocity, they also weigh the scope and punch of their songwriting with each conservative stunner like ‘Feathers’ or the title track being measured by a more adventurous composition. ‘Nightmare No. 5 Or 6’ is constructed like a classical piece, so flooded with well-executed tempo-shifts and tasteful instruments, it’s profane to admit how catchy the whole thing is. Less cerebral but no less enthralling is finale ‘All the Distant Ships’, a nine-minute sludge-fest that occasionally peels back into moments of clarity that, nuanced with beautiful lyrics and soft beds of twinkling piano, almost made me cry this morning.
Beyond the common nautical themes shared by these songs, The Violent Blue deserves its non-B-sides status because these songs couldn’t pass for anything but Electric President’s A-game. And while I’ve enjoyed trying to pinpoint the songs birthed by Sleep Well (I have my suspicions), the awe comes from hearing a band who shook me senseless two years ago returning with equally powerful songwriting and a bolder, organic sound. What this album might accomplish for the band, in terms of exposure, is anyone’s guess but one thing’s for sure: The Violent Blue is another must-listen marker in this discography, and proof that their footing as songwriters has never been more assured.