Posted by: pop-break | November 9, 2011

Pop-Break Live: Cymbals Eat Guitars in NYC

christian uhl catches the up-and-coming indie band as they performed at The Bowery Ballroom …

Wow, what a homecoming. The final performance on the first leg of their first tour supporting their Barsuk debut Lenses Alien landed Staten Island/New Jersey-spawned Cymbals Eats Guitars at their highest-profile headlining show yet, here in their backyard at The Bowery Ballroom. And this young quartet’s singer-guitarist frontman Joseph D’Agostino wasn’t above acknowledging the gravity of the moment, proudly announcing the presence of bandmember parents, and even grandparents! It was a refreshingly earnest gesture, as well as a harbinger of the soul-purging rock fireworks to follow.

While professed influence Pavement is a common reference point for Cymbals’ noisy but melodic extended jams, I see none of the slack, incidental spirit that made those ’90s icons so captivating. Instead, Cymbals’ emotionally charged, dissonant attack recalls another ’90s touchstone in Sunny Day Real Estate. The complex interplay between D’Agostino’s knotty tangles of tense, feedback-driven melt and build, bassist Matt Whipple’s sturdy chug, keyboardist Brad Hamilton’s shady accents and Matthew Miller’s possessed, polyrhythmic fills are technical wonders to behold live. But unlike SDRE’s oftentimes suffocatingly dense, airtight epics, Cymbals’ sinewy, menacing anthems unravel and explode into a rare sonic realm that feels both free-form and economical. Songs twist and wind, crash and crescendo for nearly ten minutes, D’Agostino’s dazzling guitar darting from a Mascis-like distorto wail, to deft Jeff Beck-ian finger-picking, then back to a harmonic strum more reminiscent of a stampede- and not one note feels wasted. And in addition to D’Agostino’s dynamic six-string heroics, he owns the mic as well, projecting none of the heavy-lidded, slurry indolence of shoegaze, instead offering impassioned, emotionally vulnerable high-registered vocalizing reminiscent of Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan.

Cymbals Eat Guitars’ first self-released album, Why There Are Mountains, appeared in 2009, and their average age is barely booze-legal, but I shit you not, their heady, live sonic explorations are already on par with noise-rock forebears Built To Spill and Sonic Youth. Possibly due to the jadedness of having witnessed those aforementioned legends in their ‘space guitars’ prime, or simply evolving tastes, it’s an increasingly rare occurrence I walk out of shows thinking, “This will be one of those ‘I saw them when’ moments.” This was!

In short, a mesmerizing, monumental performance.

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Responses

  1. nice review. yeah, i’ve heard way too many great things about these guys and their new record so far. definitely going to check them out


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