Æ: Aglet Eaters

Exit Calm – Exit Calm (2010)

Posted in Album, Review by R on May 29, 2010

The hype surrounding Club AC30’s newest offering had potential fans queued up before Exit Calm’s first full length had even released. Review after review drew enthusiastic comparisons to early Verve and these were indeed easily justified given the abundance of guitars soaked in Nick McCabe’s sweat, the several ‘Oh hey that sounds a lot like [insert Verve song circa 1992-93]’ moments evenly spread throughout the album and also the band’s own admission.

Gracefully steering the band away from dangerous xerox territory is our vocalist Nicky Smith who sounds nothing like Ashcroft. He is instead in possession of a set of vocal cords magnificently reminiscent of the charred voices that the American post-grunge era spawned and that so slyly prevent you from recognising the grainy cry that opens ‘We’re On Our Own’ – “I’m calling out to you/can you hear my voice/am I getting through?” as the soulmate of the heartwrenching plea Richard Ashcroft releases on ‘Starsail’ (“Hello, it’s me, it’s me, crying out are you  there?“) mingling it with a trifling ‘So Sister’ undercurrent (“So sister/you’re hearing how I missed her/but I don’t think that she’s hearing my call“).

A sandpaper voice against swampy guitars makes for a queer juxtaposition. It’s a hybrid difficult to wrap one’s mind around if you haven’t experienced it, yet given the sheer chronological correlation of what appear to be Exit Calm’s most obvious twentieth century references, one you’d imagine had already been done. Quirky or not, is it functional?

Certainly a worthy band-primer, the very first track ‘You’ve Got It All Wrong’ pulls it all together for the newbie listener. Hello layered guitars ripped off from the Vervegaze era and hello characteristically pained 90s alt-rock vox. ‘We’re On Our Own’ takes this and adds to it the prototypical isolation aesthetic of the hermitic little scene that celebrated itself, tossing out themes of solitude and willing exile – “I don’t need anyone/I’ll let you know when I need someone/to try to teach me to be alone/when I believe that we’re on our own.

Doubtlessly not the strongest track on the album, ‘Serenity’ is the most intentionally epic. It builds itself up from a hushed, somewhat restrained initial pensiveness before proceeding to intensify every aspect of its being, allowing the pent up frustration to take over, magnify itself and settle atop a relatively muted voice.

I’d like to take a break here to share with you guitarist Nick Mc… Rob Marshall’s words as they appeared in an interview with Sandman magazine explaining Nicky’s audition: “we didn’t even have a PA. He sang through a tiny guitar amp, what a voice, he sang over the top of all of us, it was unreal.” It’s this voice that almost effortlessly breaks through the potent guitar that would be quicksand for almost any other. ‘Serenity’ is a beautiful track and with its Eddie Veddery vocals could easily be a better song than anything Pearl Jam ever recorded. Unfortunately the rapt epiphany that is “You’re the reason why/I’m both lost and found” closes the song somewhat incompletely, leaving you wondering if the ‘you’ in question is responsible for much else. Surely it’s a positive thing, though, that the primary complaint here is that the song is not long enough, that the album ends too soon?

Back to that guitar – lest you get the wrong impression, it’s no one-trick pony and ‘Don’t Look Down’ proves that it has at least two avatars. It acts as a supplement to the song’s uplifting chorus “Don’t look down/you’re flying you should know now/you’ll ride it out” with by running its billowing chords through your hair and thus placing you unsupported at a liberating 30,000 foot altitude.

Brooding apology ‘Forgiveness’ is not as much a beseeching plea as it is a looming threat. “I’m sorry,” he mopes. “Forgive me” he says. “Forgive me,” he repeats. He reiterates the statement again and again and again and then it dawns on you – this is not a plea, it is an order. The warmer ‘With Angels’ is a splendidly shining example of being plucked right out of the seminalest of the 90s bands and by ‘seminal’ we’re talking 20,000 glazed eyes swaying hypnotically in unison. Look out for the three second snippet of ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ and the exceptionally unembarrassed A Storm in Heaven guitars.

As securely promising as the album is, Exit Calm face a very real threat. Behold this comment off the YouTubes posted beneath the ‘Hearts and Minds’ video:

Exit Calm are already music gods in my eyes, even before they have released their debut album. Seriously no exaggeration, stick with this band, they are probably the most capable band of the last 15-20 years

The comment has 82 thumbs up as of this post. No pressure, guys.

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