|I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness - Fear is on Our Side|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Jonathan Easley|
|Monday, 01 January 2007|
release year: 2006
label: Secretly Canadian
reviewed by: Jonathan Easley
The first connection I made with the closing track “If It was Me” from I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness’ debut was to the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs,” from The Velvet Underground and Nico. I think it’s the groove Ernest Salaz finds on his guitar that reminded me of John Cale’s droning viola, although more than likely it was just a haywire timbre association lined up by my short-circuiting pineal gland. Regardless, the Velvet Underground may be the perfect identifier for this Austin quintet. Fear is on Our Side is totally serious and way artier than it needs to be, but no matter how many “neo” or “post” tags you want to hang from their sound, at the core it’s just headier rock and roll than you’re probably used to. Don’t get me wrong, ILYBICD don’t sound anything like the Velvet Underground. You won’t find anything as giddily charged as VU’s “Rock and Roll” on Fear is on Our Side; this album is full of bass-driven electro-doom more reminiscent of Joy Division.
ILYBICD have done a couple of interesting things here. First of all, with that ridiculous band name they’ve given countless goth teens something cool to say when breaking off a relationship. More importantly, they’ve created the antithesis of a singles album; Fear is on Our Side is immensely enjoyable yet completely devoid of anything to throw on your iPod Shuffle. This tone is set on opener “The Ghost.” Slow to unravel, two guitars
intersecting perpendicular, elongated and indecipherable vocals are pinned to the groove so that they literally serve as just another instrument. Things get frantic about two and a half minutes into the track, and even more so near the four minute mark; seemingly everything on this album is released in these kinds of stages, like a dam slowly crumbling. Lead singer Christian Goyer sounds like he has something to say… but you can rarely make out the actual words. His vocals are hypnotic, and (probably) introspective; even on tracks that have marked tempo changes he’s meditating and forming the thoughts as he goes (“Lights”).
There is a three part suite divided into three tracks and placed right at the heart of this album. “The Owl,” “Today” and “We Choose Faces” are orchestral in scope, calculating and patient in movement and risky in concept. The first is a gnashing, crashing set of reverb, keys and steel-strung chords; it’s the dark point of the trinity that eventually yields in cutting contrast to follow-up “Today.” This track is instrumental as well, but clearly more optimistic thanks to a bright synth buzz that bleeds into the melodic swirl of “We Choose Faces.” Goyer contributes strung-out hums and la’s, but that’s all that’s necessary at this point as the rest of the band comes crashing through. The whole animal has the feel of a meta-meteorological front, as it floats by and infects a space with polarizing realities for a short time before passing through.
Fear is on Our Side is back-loaded with more familiar structures, but by then the tone has been set and you’re either in or out. “Last Ride Together” could be a Peter Gabriel cut, stretched across a spacious canvas and over a beam-thick bass line, still dramatic but with a defined, swollen chorus. “At Last is All” is Edgy and the Bunnymen with echoing vocals and spot-on post-punk guitar, and the aforementioned closing track “If It was Me” dips into a number of pools; it crunches prog-rock before pulling back into a dark-wave trance, threatens to fall apart and then exits to high-pitched “Sympathy for the Devil” doo-doos.
The initial buzz surrounding the band’s 2003 self-titled EP was due in part to the production by Britt Daniel of Spoon. That EP was full of indie rock that you could almost shake to, but Paul Barker’s (Ministry, Revolting Cocks) production of Fear is on Our Side strips the album of that aspect by pumping it full of darkness. It’s saturated with slowly unraveling, moody rock pieces. Most of the time this works to a powerful effect, although at times it seems too focused on unraveling so slowly – too slowly – specifically with the instrumentals (is the untitled track towards the end really necessary?). This is not ILYBICD’s core competency; they are after all a rock band, even if it is a progressive, atmospheric, less cock-based, more introspective brand of rock. These pieces come off as bloated at times, but any attempts Barker and the band might make at trimming would be cutting from a tight set and operating with the risk of ruining the personality of the album. Regardless, the mechanics of the production are first rate. The group is smooth, loud and together; every instrument feels as if it’s at the forefront all the time. That’s because they usually are; every piece is so seamlessly integrated that not even Goyer’s vocals can dominate.