Album Review: Flies Are Spies From Hell
Album: Red Eyes Unravelling
It is notoriously hard to stand out when you’re tarred with the ‘post-rock’ genre. Most listeners only have the patience to dip into the assured highlights of the genre: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, its offshoots and Mogwai amongst a few others. When you do try to explore the tag further, it’s hard to find anything that isn’t either a re-hash of what GY!BE perfected years ago, or isn’t bland movements polished with an unhealthy dose of pomposity. It’s a difficult genre to get into, rarely disposable and often demanding patience and attention from both musician and listener, a fundamental relationship that is rapidly dissipating in modern society.
Flies Are Spies From Hell have held up their side of the bargain, however. Since their 2005 debut EP (now out of print) the band have relied entirely on themselves and their patience to craft a sound and build upon it. Their live shows receive gratuitous applause from those critics who have their ears firmly to the ground, and their gradual catalogue expansion has seen the band stick to the old age adage of ‘evolution, not revolution’. Furthermore, guitarist Chris Chapman has been at the forefront of other musical endeavours, spearheading the I Am Joy art and music festival in his home town of Chichester. Patient, passionate and hard-working would sum the band up nicely, but these words are meaningless if ‘Red Eyes Unravelling’ is another trawl through the post-rock rulebook.
Remarkably, the evolution has strayed from the usual expectations. It’s odd, but the piano has never seemed to hold much temptation to the average instrumental band. Maybe it’s because you can’t tickle the ivories with a violin bow, but Flies pride themselves on this unique selling point, and from the offset it’s an instrument that makes a great deal of difference. Opening with a thrilling flurry of guitars, ‘Swimming In Streets’ immediately switches to a heart-pounding piano line, intense and full of drama. It’s this sense of intensity that best sums up the album.
The band find the perfect pace for the album. Never so slow as to be dull and uninteresting, and never so frantic as to lead to bored ears longing for something different, Flies use their repertoire of instruments to keep things moving along at a thrilling pace. ‘Wallow In Threat’ trickles along with a melodramatic piano line for a while, before exploding into colossal guitar crushes that wouldn’t be out of place on a Russian Circles album.
There are moments when the piano-shtick can get a bit too melodramatic for its own good. The tracks that suffer the most are those re-worked from the band’s original EP: the opening of ‘Mountain Language’ borders on a theme for a hospital drama, but makes up for this as it goes along with another impressive collection of riffs that put it on the right side of heart pounding. Furthermore, ‘King Sly’ seems to be the only track here lacking in any direction or purpose, especially when put before the Romero-esque lurching dread of ‘Great Deadener’.
But other than that, ‘Red Eyes Unravelling’ is a brilliant album. At times it washes over you like a calm wave, and at others it falls upon you like a tsunami. Whilst it may not be the deepest listening experience you’ll ever have, especially when you consider the names that this genre conjures up, it remains gripping and interesting throughout, and is a credit to the band’s alternative take on what ‘post-rock’ can be.
MP3: Flies Are Spies From Hell – Swimming In Streets: