October 10, 2006
THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES [I]EASTER[/I] REVIEW
Hauling themselves out of the mire of a scene made up of lesser bands, somewhat like an unwholesome giant monster from the depths of the ocean, These Arms show up with their third release in as many years. And they sound pissed.
That's one of the things that's most endearing about this band (to me): they sound so overtly angry about the things they witness but not, thankfully, in that faulty neu-metal style, where the rage is just some sort of idiotic growl.
Instead, the emotion (don't just imagine it limited to anger) comes out in torrents of energy, with guitars that spike and control the stereo. Lyrically, these guys are born out of that steam-of-consciousness train of thought made most memorable by Cedric Bixler in the At the Drive-In years; what made me fall in love with These Arms comes from a single line from Oxeneers, which fellow Never News staffer Luke recommended.
On that album, I was entirely to impressed by the layers the band was creating in their music—major multi-tracking of guitars. But then I got to 'Your Pearly Whites', which opens like a Sunny Day era emo track. The line that made me fall in love? “You could have licked the lips of God/but you chose the pavement”.
Sheer fucking genius.
That line, in itself, exemplifies what These Arms are about—a sort of quiet desperation that manifests itself in the loss of enlightenment (or falling from the trail of enlightenment). A sort of unnatural understanding of the world through the eyes of unexpected visionaries.
That vein continues on Easter, from the third grader who pens 'I was found like molten rats in your city unkept. In your city I wept' (in opener Mescaline Eyes) to the remarking on seemingly unnatural weather conditions: 'The air's a little worse than last week. It's a little bit warmer than last week. Is it really like you weren't informed? Well consider yourself enlightened now' (Lady North). One track, Perpetual Bris, deals entirely with spiritual consideration: 'You were born from sin. And if that ain't a curse, I don't know what is' and a series of questions about Biblical figures. All, of course, over understated guitars.
This sort of semi-metaphysical phrasing is a natural step in writing when you're writing from an almost completely submerged part of your sub-conscious, but few people have the ability to make it right. Bixler could, Gertrude Stein could (in a manner so removed from natural writing aesthetic that it's hard to define). The masterminds behind These Arms are Snakes can, too.
And the contextual orchestrations of the band fit the tone perfectly: seemingly eclectic in its moods, the songs range from slow rockers to tracks like Abracadabraca, in which the guitars sound eerily operatic before dipping into pools of back and forth single note jabbing—this record isn't so much made up of playing of instruments, it's made up of sculpture of sound.
Colin Reed Moon
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