At one point during “True Life”, the centerpiece of Water From Your Eyes’ Matador debut Everyone’s Crushed, Rachel Brown’s repetitive “she was wearing / she was wearing / she was wearing gold” transforms into “shoes wearing shoes wearing shoes.” For a moment it seems Water From Your Eyes are trying to make a statement on consumerism. We’re all just shoes wearing shoes, name brands wearing name brands. Or it could not be.
Digging for meaning in the music from the experimental duo of Brown and Nate Amos can be akin to searching for a needle in a haystack or a contact lens in a bucket of kitty litter; they probably had some intentions – either vague or concrete – when they set out on making these songs, but by the final product they’ve long been warped, waiting for the listener to decode them with their own personal understanding or imagination.
For six albums now the twosome have been tugging along their listeners, perhaps even trolling them in some degree, and Everyone’s Crushed may be their strongest box of tricks to date. To kick things off, the opener here is called “Structure”, which just so happened to be the name of their 2021 album. It’s something that’ll confuse search engines and conversations alike. Smart or trolling, no one cares when the music is this good.
The two are very much aware of the absurdity they surround themselves with. Their music is crooked, just like their sense of humor. “One, two, three, four, I count mountains,” Brown repeats on “Barley”, with a deadpan wisdom of someone in on a cosmic joke that’s never explained. Others employ a similar approach, but less teasingly; Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw comes to mind, but a sly smile never cracks Brown’s face, they remain in character, if we can even call it that – this is their character. “They’re nihilists Donnie, they don’t believe in anything” is the kind of thought that might come to many uninitiated Water From Your Eyes listeners, and it might even be a clever snapback, if Brown cared enough to listen.
This doesn’t in any way make Water From Your Eyes less interesting. Jumping to Matador for Everyone’s Crushed was a bold move; they now get mentioned in the same breath as Interpol and Spoon, two bands they’ve opened for. Now their music and hopefully influence can reach further, because today’s musical landscape seems devoid of this kind of truly offbeat humor.
Everyone’s Crushed is about nothing, but also about everything – but none of it would matter if the instrumental portion wasn’t as intriguing as the words. This album’s grooves run deeper than Structure’s, with strychnine-laced synths that develop in more dastardly manners – check out the deranged organs on “Open”. Then there’s the jangle-pop of “Out There”, where they pair the spacey synth and bass groove with delightful pianos before twirling out in scratchy guitar. Brown’s vocals over the melody are still intentionally misleading, “she plays the piano / she stole it from the mall / all of my best friends lost out here on the sprawl,” they sing, only to then toss out any hint of emotion by hypnotically rattling off a string of seemingly unrelated words – “Track Free Mend Three Bend Feed Knee” – and so on.
The beautiful “14” might be the realest (and clearest) Water From Your Eyes can get. Genuinely pondering their life choices seems strangely honest for this duo, but Brown allows their vocals to soar high, singing “I erased the space” – but naturally, they have to undercut the earnestness with a more characteristic line, “I’m ready to throw you up”, to balance the soapy discourse. “14” is still magical, it’s almost like their definition of a ballad as Amos stretches serene violin strings over a torture table to get the right sense of fear and comfort.
All of this is building to the greatest punchline to date from this band – the closing “Buy My Product” is a simple invitation to, well, spend some cash on their record. This isn’t Maynard James Keenan-level mockery, his hilariously aggravating “Hooker With a Penis” song from Tool’s Ænima savagely attacks his devoted fans. Brown and Amos aren’t interested in going that far – they don’t have their own winery to fall back on, and there’s no guarantee that their albums will sell as well. “Buy My Product” doesn’t cut deep on purpose, the two just want you and me and everyone we know to go buy their album, which is exactly what Taylor Swift and Morgan Wallen want you to do, they just glamorize it with mega-arena tours, major label supported ad campaigns and political banter. Well, Water From Your Eyes need to pay the rent, they need to eat, so do yourself and them a favor, and go buy their fucking album. “Now.”