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and it's strange how we're wasting our lives

 

Sunny Day Real Estate

 

I don't quite get the whole "emo" thing. But I like this group. Sometimes.

lineup: Jeremy Enigk (vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass), William Goldsmith (drums), Dan Hoerner (guitar, vocals). with Nate Mendel (bass) on the first two. Following their breakup, the rhythm guys joined the Foo Fighters and Hoerner joined Dashboard Confessional. Way to make wise career choices, guys.

review index: Diary / LP2 / How It Feels to be Something On / The Rising Tide

missing albums: Live.

apex: The Rising Tide
nadir: LP2


Diary - 1994

Rating: ***
Best songs: Seven, Song About an Angel, In Circles, 47
Worst songs: uh...

 

So is this emo? Guitar-rock with a guy singing his heart out? I dunno. I'm just going to ignore that whole "emo" tag for the rest of this page.

Anyway, at this early point of their career, they didn't exactly grasp the concept of "diversity". Every song pretty much follows the same "energetic guitars and drumming + high-pitched angsty singing". Not that that's a bad thing, mind you -- it's just, shall we say, a little monochromatic. 50 minutes of the same thing over and over gets a bit old. There are some fun highlights in the first half: well... pretty much the first four tracks. And they do dare to switch up the formula with a little minor-key piano-led tune called "Pheurton Skeurto" (whatever, don't ask me, I didn't name it). I'd comment on the lyrics, but I have no idea what's being sung. I'd also come up with a decent way to end this review, but I have no idea how to do that. Half-assed? Me? Never!


LP2 - 1995

Rating: **
Best songs: Friday, Theo B
Worst songs: bah.

 

Zen koan: What's the sound of a band breaking up?

The best answer I can think of is LP2. For whatever reasons, the band decided to split, but not before putting this record together. And judging from the contents, it's probably a good thing they did break up. Continuing in the vein of Diary Substitute, they fail to capture the same je ne sais quoi (translation: "I am pretentious") that made the previous record uh... fairly good. Problems include the lack of ear-catching melodies and the fact that they named a song after its time signature ("5/4"). If that's not indicative of a problem, I don't know what is.

There are a few highlights, though: the opening duology of "Friday" and "Theo B" are passable imitations of record 1, and "8" (what is with the numerical titles?!) is a fairly interesting song, chunka-chunka guitars and all. But on the whole the album's just a collection of interchangeable guitar-rock songs that don't do a whole lot.


How It Feels to be Something On - 1998

Rating: ***
Best songs: Pillars, Guitar and Video Games, Two Promises
Worst songs: The Prophet

 

Okay, so a few years and they've gotten the whole breaking-up thing out of their system, so they're back together (less the bass player) and are back to playing music that isn't totally generic and boring -- one need only look to the opening track "Pillars", one of those kickass trademark Sunny Day Real Estate dynamic-happy rock tunes. I still have no idea what the guy's singing about, and the difficult-to-read typography in the liner notes doesn't help. But who cares when the music is good? Right?

There's nine other songs on here. I don't want to go through them all, so I'll pick out a few. "The Prophet" -- Yes has shown us that any song called "The Prophet" will be bad. "Guitar and Video Games" is awesome, because video games are indeed awesome. As are guitars. But I really don't get some of these song titles -- "How It Feels to be Something On"? Something on what? And "The Shark's Own Private Fuck"? Am I alone when I say: huh?! I guess we sometimes just have to accept these things.

Album's pretty good, by the way.


The Rising Tide - 2000

Rating: ****1/2
Best songs: Killed By An Angel, One, Disappear, The Rising Tide
Worst songs: none

 

Okay, so where'd this come from? Apparently someone informed the SDREsters that yes, there are instruments other than the electric guitar, bass, and drums. So they went out and investigated this strange world of things like acoustic guitars, pianos, string sections, and -- gasp -- even synthesizers. Don't get me wrong, this is still a red-blooded (well, aside from Jeremy's keening vocals) guitar-rock album, but for once they've managed to balance that with some diversity in the songwriting and production. Add to that some ass-kickingly-great songwriting and you've got the makings of a great record. I'll admit, the fleshed-out sound can be bombastic at times, but if people can like Zeppelin albums, then, well, they can like this thing too.

Songs? Plenty of them. "Rain Song" excellently displays the new production style of this album, "Killed By An Angel" is one of those SDRE album-opening rock anthem things, "The Rising Tide" ends the album with a gorgeous atmospheric coda, "One" and "Disappear" are catchy-as-fruit-basket rock tracks, and so on. A couple songs on the second half aren't that great ("Tearing at My Heart" and "Television"), but overall, I'm willing to put this one up as a highlight of 2000. Try it? Why not?


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