The Summer Of Promises Kept
Popping Open Music
like indie rock as much as the next man. Actually, around here, I probably like indie rock more than the next man, unless they’re William “Bloody” Swygart, our local parish priest of the Church Of The Almighty Bedsit. I once had a friend accuse me on a trip of having brought no albums that were not UK indie bands, and much to my chagrin he was right.
So I’m not just reacting to At Dusk’s new album on the basis of a dislike for this sort of music as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, if you can’t stand indie rock At Dusk are emphatically not going to change your mind. But even if you love the stuff The Summer Of Promises Kept is tough going.
There are definitely songs where they get it right, and they’re good enough to turn the album into a qualified success. ‘Reid’s Song’ is practically a response to Teenage Fanclub’s great b-side ‘Broken’, similarly mostly instrumental but ending in the lines “I don’t believe you’re so lonely/I don’t believe you’re the only”. ‘Seventeen Fever Dream’ is an actual instrumental, and the guitar interplay there is compelling. ‘The Image’ possesses a sense of drive most of the album lacks and the elliptical (to be generous) lyrics work for one. The title track is lovely indeed, a quiet intro swelling into laid-back sighing harmonies and a great chorus (even if the reference to “beaches and canyons” and thus to Black Dice was a mistake).
But even at the best these songs can remind you of the worst on display here, where some of the stylistic choices turn into annoyances and worse. ‘Sports’ is the worst offender, reminding me why “twee” is sometimes used as a form of derision. Additionally, there is, and I don’t say this lightly, too much falsetto on this record, while the device of having the main instrumental melody follow the vocal line is also found in abundance (not a good thing). At its worst, then, The Summer Of Promises Kept isn’t just lackluster, it’s annoying. There are experiments that don’t work (‘East/West Party’), an execrable “hidden track” that is clearly listed as such (‘I Am The Starman’), and absurd melodrama (‘Rain In The House’).
Bassist Greg Borenstein’s ‘When You’re Far Away’ is a perfect example of the problem with At Dusk on this album, and also of their promise. The song itself is fine, a quiet, slowly building track. But it’s ruined by the jarring inclusion of “Lai dai dai dai dai” as a placeholder line. Jarring because the first time I heard the song I thought he was singing “come back to my room/die die die die die die”. It’s not the big picture that winds up holding back At Dusk, as they’ve got talent and potential to spare. It’s the little things. As it is, there’s a great EP here, and all of it does grow on you with more exposure. That plus the fact that they say on their website (http://www.atduskmusic.com/) “If you'd like a copy of the whole album, email us your mailing address and we'll send one out to you for free right away” means they’re worth giving a try if you’re into this indie stuff, or at least watching in the future.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2003-11-24