Monday, July 20, 2009

We Insist! - The Babel Inside Was Terrible

When last we saw We Insist!, they were defying logic with their incredibly infectious release Oh! Things Are So Corruptible, an album packed past the grooves with deft tempo changes infused with a sense of melody that sticks with you like gum on the bottom of your boot. Guess what? The lads are back . . . and they haven’t veered off course in the slightest. If anything, they focused this vehicle of musical expression to a laser fine point and targeted the spirit of adventure square in the center of the bull’s eye. In most cases, one plus one equals two, but when listening to The Babel Inside Was Terrible, one plus one probably equals something more akin to pi. The time changes that this band lives by would send Einstein scrambling back to his chalkboard to recalculate everything that he thought he had proven. Time isn’t supposed to move this way! Then when you least expect it, We Insist! change things up and slap you across the head with melody drenched passages that not only act as a break to the discordant rhythms, but also act as the underlying theme of the song.


With no hesitation, the band opens the album with a screaming example of their mind boggling complexity with the stellar track “Déjà Vu.” Bouncing from off time explosions of rhythm to bubbling masses of bass fluidity to edgy prog influenced guitar breaks to melody rich vocal passages, this song captures damn near every essence of We Insist! What makes this song more noodle twisting and incomprehensible is that the drummer, Etienne Gaillochet, is also the lead vocalist. Hello! How in God’s name can he pull this stuff off?!?!? The moment I first heard this song I simply could not believe what I was hearing. Sure . . . I know a lot of things can be done in the studio to soften the edges and bring a little shine to an otherwise rough and haggard appearance, but c’mon! Are you hearing what I’m hearing? Just the mere idea that music can be performed in this manner is enough to perplex even the greatest minds!

And remember . . . that’s just the first song! We Insist! isn’t satisfied with making us scratch our heads in wonder for a mere five minutes. Oh no! They’re hell bent on putting us through this for near an hour. “Oakleaves,” and “Efficiency and Bad Habits,” are terrifying examples of what the unfettered musical mind can accomplish. Huge moving pieces of sound, roiling through the ether and ultimately hurling every turbulent note against the rocky shore of our subconscious mind. Beautiful melodies that soar in the foreground while droning notes and heavily distorted chords build a foundation of unrest behind the beauty. Both songs show the bands eagerness to explore different sounds as well. Not content with the standard rock format of instruments, We Insist! incorporate xylophones, saxophones, and some of the most bizarre tones a synthesizer can emit. It’s one thing to experiment with sound, but it’s something completely different when a musician can make it sound good. These guys have done that and more!

In an album packed with highlights, “In A Maze” is the point where everything just falls into place. The opening arpeggio passage with the textured guitars dubbed over, the melodic vocals, the synths . . . every sound working in perfect harmony, and then the full blown chords and discordant tones enter the mix, and the tension just bubbles over to riotous levels. Absolutely fucking awesome! The composition is as complex as anything else the boys have done, but there’s a hint of accessibility to this one. We Insist! walk the line between avant garde and formulaic to perfection, mixing in the oddball sounds with the traditional, mixing the melody with the disjointed spastic rhythms. And through it all, the band sounds like they’re having fun! Heady and thought provoking music that challenges the listener, but laced with a buoyant attitude to lighten up the menace of having to think too hard. Can’t get enough of this one!

Let’s face it . . . the whole album is incredible. I could sit back and dissect every song, but that would potentially ruin your experience and deprive you of your own sound exploration. Suffice it to say, you’ll never get bored with The Babel Inside Was Terrible because there’s always something new and exciting, fresh and death defying around every musical corner. We Insist! aren’t afraid of trying something new, following their muse no matter what time signature it’s grooving to, simply to achieve self satisfaction for the art that they produce. And maybe that’s one reason I dig this so much . . . the fact that this band isn’t content with just riding a groove to death or playing the expected notes at the expected times. They challenge the listener to rethink or relearn what they’ve heard up to this point. We Insist! are the Indiana Jones of the music world, in search of the music world’s lost treasures and finding adventure along the way. Let’s just hope they don’t meet an unflattering end in the process. In my book, they captured the bad guys, rescued the damsel in distress, and collected a handsome bounty for their efforts. The world simply needs more music like this. - Pope JTE



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