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Pathetic, Yet Beautiful?

Aereogramme Combines Comforting Melodies with Weak Lyrics

By Julie J. Hong

Staff Writer

Sleep and Release


Matador Records

During the first twenty or so listens of Aereogramme’s sophomoric effort, Sleep and Release, I found the album, in a word, boring. The tracks were blasÉ and entirely forgettable, and if they weren’t, it’s because they were so bad. Imagine my horror then when I found myself outside a London club, asking my friend whom we were there to see, and he casually replied, “Aereogramme.”

Being from Glasgow and on the Matador label might tempt one to think of Belle and Sebastian or Mogwai. Resist if possible; Aereogramme does not deserve the comparison. Their defining characteristic is not precocious melodies or experimental rock but instead, unfortunately, the juxtaposition of beautiful melodies with harsh satanic screaming.

As it turns out, they weren’t so bad live, though I suspect my not having slept and being more than a little drunk may have influenced my opinion slightly. Aereogramme has a soothing quality, which perhaps explains the album’s title. But do not be fooled.

Sleep and Release exists as an oxymoron because of its odd combination of frailty and anger, and it doesn’t quite work. Unlike their first release, A Story in White, tracks in Sleep and Release segue into another, bleeding them together. Though this fails to disguise the obvious clash in Aereogramme’s sound, it does delay the effect. Delays until the fourth track, that is. “Older,” following three fairly mellow and somewhat ambient songs, appears at first to be straightforward rock before shifting gears to a strained calm. Then the heavy, indecipherable screaming begins, and why the sound was previously so strained becomes clear. Fortunately, the screaming resurfaces only in “Wood.” Unfortunately, it’s even worse then.

This bleeding of tracks produces a cinematic effect, like scenes unfolding before you. But what’s the story? Sleep and Release explores human form at its nadir. When he’s not screaming, Craig B.’s strangely comforting voice seemingly contradicts his band’s haunting lyrics, creating a disjointed irony in what he’s saying and how he’s saying it. “No Really Everything’s Fine” (hardly a convincing title) opens with, “The reason we’re all disfigured/I will say it again/The reason we’re all disappointed/Is innocence lost,” while “In Gratitude” features such encouragement as “I know in time we’ll get out of this mess/We will get out of this mess.” In “A Winter’s Discord,” there’s “one last chance to hide upstairs,” and “Black Path” repeats, “See how lifeless life can be.” Need I say more?

Just in case one is still in doubt, “A Simple Process of Elimination” has at its end a pathetic voice that pleads, “Please get in touch with me. Please, please I need you. Help.” The message is particularly unsettling when juxtaposed with a voice stating the date and time. Supposedly, this appeared on drummer Martin Scott’s answering machine while recording the album.

As just shown, Aereogramme is lyrically weak. The very first lines of the opening track, “Indiscretion #243,” are, “I’m listening like my father/Told me how to/And burning like my brother/Always knew I would.” Another example of poor lyricism comes from “Black Path,” with the lines, “It’s time to follow the black path/Come tomorrow, you won’t laugh at love/Face down you can see the ground turn/From green and red, black to gray/Where everyone becomes afraid of you.”

But who listens to lyrics nowadays? Apparently no one, if Celine Dion, Cher, Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, and Jennifer Lopez all have albums in Billboard’s Top 50 this week.

Though at times it contains melodic discord with its despondent lyrics, Sleep and Release can be unbelievably beautiful. While not one song is particularly catchy, collectively they are the moments in this album that make it worth listening to.

However, Craig B.’s vocal ability is limited. He either perfectly exudes a certain vulnerability or screams death metal style and seems unable to decide which he prefers. In any case, he fails to pull it off. But if you’re into that kind of thing, you can catch Aereogramme next Friday, April 25, with The Delgados at Paradise Rock Club.