The suburban desperation and cynicism on Cymbals Eat Guitars’ third album is hard to ignore when looking at all the individual factors. When looked at it as a whole, however, there’s a more prominent factor: a fresh take on American angst and conformity. While it may lack enough originality to stand as a classic, Lose draws from the best records of the 90s, and plays out as well as a masterful poem as it does an album.
The most obvious comparisons are The Wrens (whose Meadowlands is imprinted all over this record) and Pavement, but Cymbals Eat Guitars try to convince you for 45 minutes that they are more than the sum of their parts. The good part is, this happens to be completely true. As a testament to old-fashioned skillful songwriting, Lose is concrete endeavor. If you’re writing great original songs, even if you sound like someone else, you’re doing a better-than-most job. This is exemplified pretty early on, as the one-two punch of “Jackson” and “Warning” have the most memorable hooks on the whole album.“Chambers” also comes close, rivaling pre-new wave songs of the late 70s.
The other wonderful feat Joseph D’Agostino and co. pull off here is standing out amongst thousands of other bands in 2014. If this was 1998, the ideals of rich kids that hate the prospect of becoming dentists or falling into oblivion would be more recognized by society. They’re almost out of sync with any current, hip music scene, and that exact tactic makes it unique. It is a more powerful statement than if everyone was trying out the same sounds and poetic lyrics.
That said, the (most likely) inadvertent marketing tactic of Lose shouldn’t undermine the quality of the record. It makes a good argument for music as art form, as it blends gorgeous audio with devastating and purposeful lyricism. “Child Bride,” a mid-album highlight, tells the bleak, unraveling narrative of an abused childhood friend who falls into drug addiction. Elsewhere, the theme of being trapped in a car during a snowstorm or some sort of calamity repeats as D’Agostino reminisces of past girlfriends and the perils of growing past your twenties.
The darkness isn’t without its bright spots, but they’re occasionally difficult to find, making them all the more important to hang on to. In case you miss any of it, the band wants you to know how central the lyrics are to understanding this album, so they put all the words up on their website. Guitars break into Nels Cline-indebted solos, drums get slurred while precisely keeping tempo, instrumental breaks go on for minutes, and life goes on. The effect of Lose is closely tied with how close to home it hits, but it’s not that difficult to find something to latch onto with such universal thoughts. As they so nonchalantly conclude the album, “Every rich kid’s basement smells the same.”