The older you get the more complicated life gets. Although not all of the aspects of aging are negative, one of the things I struggle with is the loss of “wonder.” It gets and harder to enjoy the things you used to when you were less experienced. Take for instance my love of hardcore punk. Thru ages 15-25 it was probably the type of music, and the culture around it, that I most enjoyed and identified with. But, as I got older my level of commitment to, and interest in, listening to people scream in my face (or ear) about _________ (fill in the blanks here with parents, government, war, friends who stabbed you in the back, the destruction of the environment, capitalism, racism, sexism) started to wane. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty “well-rounded” individual (both literal and figuratively) and thus have enjoyed many different kinds of music and artistic expression. I think that now, closing in on 35, I find myself more open minded and receptive than I’ve ever been. So why is it that I just can’t get into this new Emeralds LP?
My love of Emeralds’ music is recent. I first heard them via their official full -length LP “Does It Look Like I’m Here” on Editions Mego back in 2010. That discovery led me to seek out their previous releases (S/T, Solar Bridge, Allegory of Allergies, the Split 12”s and a few of their 50 or so other cassette and single releases) and I ate it all up, because it was good, and I was hungry to hear more of what they were doing. I still think the aforementioned full-length is a near perfect album of synth + guitar electronic ambient music with an obvious debt to the old gods of western synth-dom (Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Alan Howarth) but made in a way entirely their own. You could say the release on vinyl of “What Happened” doesn’t count since it was a reissue of a previously released CD and it was a collection of live improvised jams, but it was really great too. As for all the other Emeralds-related works, I really don’t much care for them. With the exception of Mark McGuire’s “Off in the Distance”, all of his other releases as well as all the other member’s solo and collaborative projects (Mist, Outer Space, Imaginary Softwoods, etc) do absolutely nothing for me. Maybe if I had listened to one of them before listening to Emeralds’ music as a unit, I would pay more attention. Now they all just sound somewhat derivative to these jaded ears. The experience of digesting those projects reminds me of reading the “fan fiction” versions of an author you really like, they can come close… yet, it just doesn’t feel right. This may be an unfair comparison, but emotions are never fair, they just are.
So here I am trying to really get behind this new Emeralds LP and failing.
Why? Maybe because it sounds like something that’s been done to death… back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. It’s sci-fi movie soundtracks, cheesy soft drink commercials, the nerdy background music playing before a feature film prompting you to go hit the snack bar before the film begins, it’s League of Nations and New Order instrumentals, it’s the music from the 80’s that I didn’t care about because I was much more interested in Black Flag, The Dicks, Poison Idea, Sonic Youth, Swans, Einsturzende Neubauten, Joy Division. And I’m not interested in listening to it now, at least not it’s re-imagined/ re-done version. It’s like watching the recent and very uninspiring glossy remakes of Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween.
Now, the album is not bad, these dudes know what they’re doing and they do it well. Maybe that’s the problem. They’ve come to know their instruments so well and use them with such clinical precision that it’s not a challenge anymore and creativity has been absorbed by the search for the perfect pitch and the perfect timing. It’s what makes listening to very well-trained musicians so painful at times, they know too much and they’re not scared or nervous enough to sweat, to suffer and at the same time thrive thanks to the tension and the chance that everything could fall apart. This is what a lot of great music is born of.
So yeah… the songs are good, the jacket looks nice. It’s all very well executed, recorded, and packaged, but whose blood is flowing here? Who’s feeling anything?
Get it here – www.editionsmego.com