Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Explosions in the Sky
I have to say that I have been greatly anticipating this album since I heard of its planned release. I have been listening to Explosions in the Sky since 2008, shortly after All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone hit the public. Ever since then I have been a fanatic, and I evangelize for EITS pretty frequently. In an atmosphere of contrived and hollow music, these gentlemen stand out dramatically.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to see them perform at a wine and tapas bar in Little Rock, Arkansas. To this day it is the best live performance I have ever seen, and to this day I won’t say that about any other show I’ve been to. As they arrived on stage, the crowd began cheering wildly. The band members gave no display of bravado, no sign that they were in any way expecting such a reception. After a quick “thank you” into one of the stage microphones, they began playing the intro to “First Breath After a Coma.” The audience fell immediately silent, and the anticipation in the room thickened. What proceeded were two hours of intense, ecstatic performance by four incredibly talented gentlemen. I don’t remember many details from those couple of hours, the experience was so bracing, but I remember that they played the entire contents of the albums The World is not a Cold, Dead Place and All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. I also remember standing at the foot of the stage after the show ended, locked in a tight embrace with the three friends who traveled to the show with me. It is one of the most cathartic experiences I have ever had.
The active ingredient to EITS’s performance was passion; it was written all over their faces as they played. They were not infatuated with themselves, or their abilities, or the crowd’s reaction to their presence on stage. They allowed themselves to be transparent, displaying their emotions openly as they performed. There were moments when one or two members would fall to his knees, eyes closed, locked into a whole-body reverie. They were sincere. They were approachable. They were excited. I’ve seen many bands play many live shows, and I can tell when they are tired of playing the same set, night and night again, for one indistinguishable crowd after another. I did not see any trace of this in EITS. I could clearly perceive that for these gentlemen each moment was truly new, truly a blessing.
Which leads me to Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.
I will admit that the first time I heard the album, streaming on EITS’s official website, the first thought I had was, “This is it?” At first listen, nothing struck me as wholly outstanding. This was two, maybe three, days before the official U.S. Release of Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, and I was beginning to regret pre-ordering my copy of the album two weeks previously. I said to myself, “Well, it’s still better than most of the crap out there. Maybe it will grow on me.”
How short-sighted I am.
My copy of the album arrived in the mail the day after the U.S. release of April 26th. I opened it up, admired the artwork (really cool, by the way), set it down in front of my computer, and walked away. I wouldn’t think about it again until I was preparing to go to work the next day.
As an afterthought, I grabbed the CD on my way out the door at 6:00 in the morning. I got my daughter situated in her car seat, slipped the disc into my car’s CD player, and took off. I remembered from listening to the music online that I liked the first track, so I sat back and gave it another chance.
I have about a half-hour drive into work every day. As I mentioned in “My Favorite Daydream,” most of this journey consists of vistas of rural land and open Missouri River floodplain. The sun was coming up behind me on the first clear morning the St. Louis area had received in days. Traffic was moving steadily, and I had a hot, homemade cup of coffee in hand. All of this made for the perfect backdrop to the experience I was about to have.
The opening of “Last Known Surroundings” seems made with early-morning driving in mind. The intro consisting of dissonance and sound sampling, sets a perfect mood for breaking through the exhaustion and complacency that settles upon one who must get up before sunrise. Despair and acerbity scatter with the first strike of a guitar, seconds into the song. The melody of the track continues the elevation of one’s mood as it draws the listener deeper into his or her own mind. By the time a person reaches the crescendo of the song, it is almost impossible to feel hopeless of frustrated. It is like being reminded, over and over again, that everything, every last thing, will work out in the end, and believing the truth of it.
Following the first song is “Human Qualities,” a piece of music that does not apologize for taking its time to get where it is going. Oh, and how it delivers in the end. This track proves the adage that good things come to those who wait.
“Trembling Hands,” the third song on the album, was released as a free download about a week before the album’s U.S. release. It is frenetic and experimental. In its tone it reminds me quite a bit of “Catastrophe and the Cure” from All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, though it is more consistent throughout. It is wild, it is upbeat, and it is exciting. Altogether, a well done, short song.
Following is “Be Comfortable, Creature.” This song starts out gently, slowly, and gradually increasing in volume and tone without being irritating or overpowering. In the end it drops off and sounds similar to music from Eluvium’s album, Talk Amongst the Trees. The song is mature and subtle, and reminds us of how far we have come.
My favorite song, “Postcard from 1952,” is next-to-last on the CD. I still don’t know that I can adequately verbalize the experience of listening to this track. It is as if EITS spent the four years since All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone mapping human emotion and translating what they learned into a wonderfully composed, eloquent piece of music. If you listen to one new song today, make it this one:
When I read a book or watch a movie, I like the climax and resolution to deliver. I am usually disappointed with a subtle or understated catharsis at the end of a story. Some of my favorites are To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Gladiator, and Ink. The track, “Let Me Back In,” the final song on Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is comparable to all of these. If you listen to the entire album without stopping, it is well worth it to make it to this song. It revisits the depths and summits of all previous songs on the album. It tactfully blends calculated, traditional styles and experimental, chaotic riffs. It ends slowly and quietly, giving the listener an urge to prevent a next song from starting. Silence is required to take it all in. When the emotion passes, one will find that he or she desires to start the CD over again and again, experiencing it differently each time.
As I stated before, the key to Explosions in the Sky’s talent is, as with many gifts, passion. If you’ve never listened to the band before, I suggest adding it to your daily routine. This latest album is evidence of the band’s growth and maturation, attention to detail, expanding musical ability, and above all, passion. It has quickly taken the position of The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place as my favorite EITS album. Don’t borrow this CD from a friend so that you can rip it into your media player. Buy it. If ever there was money well spent on an addition to a music collection, it would be on Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. The music, the album artwork, and the experience are well worth it.