I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness
Fear is on Our Side
e all know the post-punk tropes, something “angular,” possibly “haunting” or “crystalline.”
So what is “The Owl” doing on this album?
Just as we’re settling in with a fairly judicious, Chameleons UK evoking debut album from the deliriously titled I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, “The Owl,” a heavy-lidded guitar interlude that’s half moonscape, half post-rock pops up before we’re even three songs in.
Clearly, this is a band fascinated with supernatural post-rock. But not obsessed. Their genealogy and desire for expansion must have abruptly ran up against the first two svengalis who got their hands on the band (Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Ministry’s Paul Barker), guys from two bands that, in slightly askew ways, evoke two classic tenets of post-rock—“space” and “efficiency”—while still welding pop songs and dance tracks.
What’s most provocative about this lean, effective debut, is that Fear is on Our Side doesn’t merely meander around this tension, they use it to write strenuous, resonant pop. Half-way through “We Choose Faces” and its sledgehammer, churning bass drum, a sheet of denatured guitar fuzz slips in alongside lead singer Christian Goya’s blasé howl. Typical parts of the post-punk arsenal, yes, but rarely are twists so traditionally divergent juxtaposed together so effectively. Same with the album closing, “If It Was Me”: it keeps the minor key guitars and Book of Job memorial lyrics between The Swans and Nick Cave. And even though they balance everything well enough to turn a potential “jack-move” into a surprising “homage,” any educated music mind is just going to reflexively go through the Manchester catalogue. Accept it.
But ILYBICD clears the first hurdle: they pull from enough diverse sources to hide any one vein, and they actually use their knowledge. There’s no: “Oh yeah, yeah, lots of pedals, they could work.” The steady success of this album might be attached to the classic argument about art education: learn other’s voices to find your own.
Tightrope walking, though, is seldom easy.
Cover twice the area and volume in about half the time; pull from influences (not just “yours”) and you’re still trapped in the realm of the “competent.” You can make guitars range from airport diodes (the first 90 seconds of “Last Ride Together”) to something so languid and gracious they sound like harps (“Long Walk”) and barely resonate in your own time.
So create your own musical cathedral in Texas. Abuse echo. Make an album cover with a sulky-blue heart, negative space inverted cross and put them all on a black field. Repeat “catch your breath” for a couple minutes straight. Half-ass any of this, or do one part in egregious disproportion, and ILYBICD slides dangerously close to the rubbish bin. But they thrive on the dangerously long jam, and the wordless sublime is very go-to (the band has a strong preference for melodic polish over lyrical depth). Just observe the finest moments: Augured suites of solitude and standard baring drums. The gypsy hiss that’s impossible to assign to an instrument or locate. Degenerate sneers at an unnamed lover.
See that? Instead of boxing themselves into a corner, they’ve already begun throwing punches.