65 Days of Static hold a very special place in my cold and flinty reviewer’s heart. One of the first reviews I produced for the site (long time fans may recall) was their previous album One Time For All Time . Critically beloved, and reputedly still majestic live (I’ve managed to miss three out of the three times they played in Newcastle due to work commitments, the last one replete with guest list places), 65 DoS are a special band, and I know it’ll hurt me more than it hurts you to hear it, but The Destruction of Small Ideas isn’t the album to prove it.
Unfortunately apt opener ‘When We were Younger & Better’ illustrates this perfectly. It has sections of well-worked crescendo, expanses of pastoral prettiness, and all kinds of building and breaking in between. But it doesn’t sound like it was broken or built with the same enthusiasm as its predecessor. It sounds jaded and old.
There’s too much stodgy duh-duh-duh-duh strumming (‘Don’t Go Down to Sorrow’); too much sweepy stringy Coldplay pastiche (‘Music is Music as Devices are Kisses is Everything’); too much borrowed from the David Holmes school of filmic atmospherics (‘Wax Futures’); not enough energy and not enough surprise. The fusion elements which drew such plaudits before seem to have been separated back, leaving interesting enough electro tracks (‘The Distant & Mechanised Glow…’) but nothing to invite the formerly customary swells of excitement. And nearly as bad, the abstract polemic which used to hold swap over the linear notes has crept onto the outside cover. From the album title, right though to song titles like ‘These Things You can’t Unlearn’ and ‘The Conspiracy of Seeds.’ It smacks of camp empty pretension, as if someone had gone poking through J.G. Ballard’s wastepaper basket.
Maybe I’ve just spent too much time listening to instrumental post-rock (in various guises) recently, but I can’t help thinking that what’s really missing now, if 65 DoS really want to expand their sound and push further on, is a voice. Not necessarily Axl Rose or Kelly Clarkson (is it worrying that they’re the first two names that popped into my head?) My shortlist was names like Martina Topley Bird and Tricky (mainly because ‘A Failsafe’ sounds like a cut from Angels With Dirty Faces, and because it’d make my year to have them back together); Kool Keith; Liz Fraser; Saul Williams. Artists who can fill spaces with words when there aren’t any ostensible spaces to fill. And hold back when there are.
Much like the relationship between The Fall of Math and One Time For All Time had the band doing the same, but slicker and better, The Destruction of Small Ideas allows them to fall backwards, doing the same but not as good. It has them sounding a little bored, and possibly in the wake of bands like Battles and Shining, a little tired.
I’m sorry I had to do that.