Monday, October 4, 2010

The Insect Guide - Dark Days & Nights

October sees the release of The Insect Guide’s much anticipated second album Dark Days & Nights.

In addition to the 10 brilliant new songs included on that record (and reviewed below) the band has put together a bonus DVD that includes unique live concert footage, behind the scenes in-studio “making of” insights as well as a narrated tour.

With an intro guitar tone reminiscent of The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Some Candy Talking,” vocalist Su Sutton alternates between a sweet and sandpaper quality on opening track “Wasted.” Spinning a tale of “wasting another night with you,” bright tambourine (meticulously placed) accentuate key moments as Stan Howells guitar layers add power and clarity to it all. “I go through charcoal grey – I go through black,” Sutton laments. “I go through charcoal grey – I’m not coming back,” she concludes.

Former Pale Saints drummer (and newest band member) Chris Cooper stands out on the track “This City.” Against booming tom toms and distinct snare rim clacks, guitarist Howells builds a cathedral of melodic guitar lines and noisy washes. Slowing it down a bit for “10,” “I don’t love you anymore” is the big chorus refrain against a bed of discordant guitar textures. It all goes a bit higher when a keyboard melody line enters the mix. It is this band’s attention to dynamics that is most impressive. Alternating between quiet passages (allowing Su’s lyrics to be clearly experienced) to the big dramatic chorus.

Sultry title track “Dark Days & Nights” takes you on a journey through the sometimes seedy UK club scene. “Scuffing dirty boots on stick club floors” and “waiting on sounds” is the order of business at hand. Whereas “Crushed” evokes a somewhat mystical vibe. Trippy and snakelike, it channels a similar feel of, say “The End” by The Doors, or “Snakepit” by the Cure (with perhaps a bit of “We Love You” by The Rolling Stones). “Tape” is a straight up tender and gentle song, while “Insider” brings back the deep thunder drums and adds further sonic enhancements by way of organ textures. Multiple tracks of Stan’s slashing, slicing guitars combine with these individual organ melody lines. “Don’t you forget that I know you,” is Su’s repeated cautionary statement.

“Down From Here” serves as the third single off this collection (with "Dark Days & Nights" and “Wasted” being the first and second), and it’s easy to see why. Driving, catchy pop at it’s best, the lyrics point towards something a bit more sinister. “There’s no further down from here,” can only imply you’ve reached rock bottom. So – the only way out is back up? With a single guitar line hook that references both The Cure (in tone) and The Jesus & Mary Chain (in construction) fans of those bands will surely love this.

Rounding out the album is the pleasing pop of “Disco Tents” (which contains the clever lyric “I will forget you – just give me time” – a personal fave of mine) and “Hearts Don’t Break” which has the band breaking from 4/4 time and going with 3/4. Piano notes work their way into the sonic mix as the lyrics suggest something unsettling in nature. “I see the lights in the river, I see the bodies on the shore.” Guitar twang conjures up David Lynch, making it a perfect track for any one of his films.

A brilliant record and highly recommended.


Links to find out more:


Anonymous said...

That kicks ass.

What I hate about many bands out there is their constant struggle to show how "mature" or "musically experienced" they are. Long solos, complex arrangements, over-the-top and artifical emotions, all kinds of bullshit. The Insect Guide crew doesn't give a damn about this kind of thing- they actually *are* artistically mature. Every sound in their songs has its place, they do not struggle to convince the listener about their greatness- they just do their job and they do it *very* well.

Dave, you've mentioned their attention to the dynamics- it's so clear in their songs, man, it's very natural, it's a perfect balance I can hear in these tracks. It's spread all over their recordings. This music is like a good cooking- there's a perfect amount of all ingredients. I like this "we don't have to prove anything" kind of attitude and the atmosphere of easiness. That's a good band out there and a real pleasure to listen to.

Oh, and the lyrics- while 99% of rock and pop lyrics out there are total and utter crap, here it's different. There's this mysterious, dark symbolism in the words and that's the way any band can buy me right away. I'm sold.

Great job.

DaveCromwell said...

Hey eagle - wonderful feedback. I'm sure the band will appreciate reading this.

Yeah, this is music that is meticulously crafted - yet never feels "stiff" of manufactured.

Additionally, their video work (all self produced!) is second to none.

smork said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr Smork said...

accurate descriptions, dave. when isaw the first pics of the band i knew what can i expect, reading made my suspicious only stronger, and when i heard the i realized - all i read was true.... so good piece of writing.
i know i might be saying a lot, but this band reminds me of "manhaten live suicides" (or whatever left from them). the style is - a bit psycho (even to me) and vocals aren't annoyingly wrapped and covered behind guitar sound which is good. :)
feel the free.

DaveCromwell said...

You have great powers of observation, Mr. Smork.

The Insect Guide share more than a few similaries with The Manhattan Love Suicides (and now the band they have morphed into - The Blanche Hudson Weekend). Not only are they label mates - but they are friends and sometimes (mostly video) collaborators.

You picked up on that well, my friend.

ViewFromSpookysDoghouse said...

It's been said that if all the species of mammals were eradicated, the earth would persevere; but if insects were eliminated, it wouldn't. In short, insects are necessary to our ecosystem.

Perhaps insects are a guide to the sound of this band. I couldn't help noticing, at around the two minute mark of "Wasted," and at the very end of "Down From Here," the introduction of some discordant electric guitar. It's definitely musical, but with an irritating edge, kind of like when flies buzz about food at a meal. You shoo it away, and it is gone temporarily, but its menacing presence has been felt.

Still, I feel that "Wasted" by The Insect Guide may very well be the best opening track with the same titled song since Carrie Underwood's debut album. It is also refreshing to once again read of cathedrals in Dave's writing, reassuring us all that his religious upbringing wasn't entirely "wasted" on him.

And Mr. Smork, I really wish I could, buddy. But it's really hard. Maybe some day. (You know, FTF.)

DaveCromwell said...

I like the scientific analysis in your preamble, VFSD.

But what I like even better is your careful listening to the music - and how you are now picking up on the "discordant electric guitar," "musical with an irritating edge," "menacing presence" and the "buzz."

You've captured very well what that "thing" is that keeps me coming back to this kind of music.

Anonymous said...

Great review

DaveCromwell said...

Thanks, Anouk

I'm glad you like.

Great band ;-)