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Cymbals Eat Guitars

Why There Are Mountains

[Self-released; 2009]

By ; November 16, 2009 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

There’s a rare quality about Why There Are Mountains, the debut from Staten Island’s Cymbals Eat Guitars, but it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what it is. It could be the fact that the band has much more in common with the sprawling indie rock bands from the Pacific Northwest rather than their peers in Brooklyn. It could be the raw emotion, spilling out over the edges of each song, or the bright-eyed sincerity in the voice of singer Joseph D’Agostino. Or it could just be the fact that the album is just flat-out good in a no-gimmick, broadly appealing way.

It’s also refreshing to hear a band just explode right off the bat, the way CEG does in opener “…And the Hazy Sea.” The song is six minutes of scorching feedback and a din of voices all fighting to get a word in that never lets up, even when it launches into the next track, “Some Trees (Merritt Moon).” On an album that’s packed to the gills with great songs, “Some Trees” is easily one of the highlights, as well as the best representation of the album’s sound as a whole, marrying the visceral energy of the louder songs with the emotional pull of the more slowed-down numbers, like “Share” and “What Dogs See.”

What really makes Why There Are Mountains excel, other than the songs, is the album’s flow. The dichotomy between the sprawling, messy epics like “…And the Hazy Sea” and the tightly-wound powerhouses like “Some Trees” and “The Living North” is really the glue that holds the album together. If the songs were sequenced any other way, it’s likely the album could seem like a hodgepodge of songs with wildly varying moods instead of a document of a turbulent youth.

If there’s a criticism for this album, it’s probably the fact that the messiness isn’t always charming. It can come off as too much of a debut sometimes, like in longer songs like “Like Blood Does” or “Share,” where the band spends a little too much time setting the mood and not enough time playing a song. CEG come across as a young band – and they are – but this is a minor complaint compared to the monumental sound the band has constructed on their debut, and this time, the band gets a pass.

Ultimately, Why There Are Mountains succeeds in large part because of its wide-ranging appeal. It’s one of those albums about which anybody can find something to like. Why There Are Mountains is not only a fine debut, but a startlingly consistent and enjoyable listen for the first, second, tenth, and fiftieth time you hear it.


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