Album Review: Pelican
Album: What We All Come To Need
Label: Southern Lord
What is it that Pelican are suggesting we all need? Do we really need another post-rock band spewing forth their instrumental odes to whatever hippy freakfest is in season at the moment? Or are they talking about themselves, and admitting that to stand out amongst this gaggle of identikit no-vocal bands you need… vocals? Wait; there are vocals on a Pelican album? Fucking hell, they’ve actually tried something new!
Yes, yes, closing track ‘Final Breath’ is perhaps most breathtaking because it features the vocal strains of Allen Epley (The Life And Times). And Epley isn’t the only one joining in the Pelican gangbang. Buried between What We All Come To Need’s seven other tracks are guest appearances from Greg Anderson (Goatsnake, and co-founder of Southern Lord), Ben Verellen (Helms Alee) and, in a move that will surely get every post-rock fanboy tugging eagerly at their meat, Aaron Turner from ISIS throws down some moves with the Pelican boys on the title track.
But does it make the difference? If there’s one criticism you can easily level at Pelican, it’s that there’s little to distinguish one album, sometimes even songs, from another. They have their sound, that laid back, Southern-influenced take on what could possibly be the apocalypse, and only rarely have they deviated from that comfort zone. Well, their latest showcases a tendency to lean to the heavier side of things, which is much preferable to the sometimes weak displays of vain beauty that populated their past few records.
‘Specks Of Light’ goes through various reverberating mutations before reaching its grinding conclusion; ‘An Inch Above Sand’ with its crunchy guitar-riff that avalanches into a cacophony of noise, and a bass drum that stabs at it all like a rhythmic mass murderer; ‘Ephemeral’, a re-recorded version of the same song that appeared on this year’s EP of the same name, which just about gets away with accusations of laziness by being heavy enough to pummel the memories of the old version out of the brain.
There’s even the odd jaw-dropping surprise. ‘The Creeper’, for example, is a pop song; there’s no denying it. After the languishing intro disappears, Larry Herweg jams out a massive beat behind his kit that almost seems to be begging for a packed out stadium crowd. The trouble is, what it also needs is some kind of lyrical addition, as I couldn’t help but find out when listening to the track – my own vocalised contribution consisted of a freeflow rap on the perils of cats taking over the world. Yeah, don’t ask.
What We All Come To Need is a much more engaging album than anything that Pelican have preceded it with. At times the band is showing off undeniably delicious hooks that prick the ears to attention. Essentially, unlike their hit and miss back catalogue, which suffers from delusions of grandeur and results in oft-drab slabs of instrumental snores, WWACTN is a genuinely enjoyable listen. Maybe that’s what Pelican are trying to suggest – that we all just need to have a little bit more fun.
Originally published on Sonic Dice.