Preview: Cymbals Eat Guitars this Tuesday (10/11) at the Empty Bottle

Cymbals Eat Guitars has been around for nearly a decade. And it might just be me, but the time between 1996 and 2006 seems like a longer time than 2006 to 2016.

Change is the only constant — and Cymbals Eat Guitars’ fourth record Pretty Years reminds us of this.

Frontman and main songwriter Joseph D’Agostino is the only remaining original member of the band. In spite of the new lineup, the fuzzed-out and yet silvery guitar chords and riffs still guide most of the songs on this record.

But the band has only expanded its palette since 2014’s impressive LOSE, a record that nonetheless stretched sound like hands spreading out clay. Echoing synth and keyboard lines splash light hues onto this record as a roaring tenor saxophone — best heard in the standout track “Wish” — adds coarse texture that you could almost feel by reaching out your hands.

The Staten Island-based band has been quintessentially indie-rock even before they released their debut album. After all, they started out in high school by covering Weezer’s Blue Album and Pinkerton. They blend the fuzzy guitar hooks of ‘90s indie bands like Built to Spill with the tight but loose guitar instrumental sections of Modest Mouse (not to mention D’Agostino’s dense but emphatic sing-shouting that just reeks of The Moon and Antartica).

They may have taken their name from a Lou Reed quote, but, at least until this record, maybe they’ve actually been Guitars Eat Cymbals.

Pretty Years is also their first record produced by John Congleton, who has worked with St. Vincent and Explosions in the Sky. The production chops shine here, too: as much as Cymbals Eat Guitars are about guitar sounds, they’ve been mostly about big guitar sounds. And the instruments create space here, just like their previous three records, but only so far as they can fill it with purposeful shimmery, watery, or fuzzy grain.

Their fourth record is impressive not for its sonic density — an attribute that has marked their entire catalogue — but for how they managed to balance and stretch it. At times uptempo, the D’Agostino counterbalances the record’s vibrant colors with reflective and even brooding lyrics.

Cymbals Eat Guitars has always been much more than the sum of their influences and Pretty Years is no exception. It’s almost strange to hear another vestige from the heyday of indie-rock, and yet the band is molding an evolved sound instead of holding onto the past that they’ve cherished.

Catch them at the Empty Bottle this Tuesday, October 11 for $12, which is a complete and utter steal. The tickets can be bought here. Field Mouse is touring with them and Wildhoney will be opening. The show starts at 9:00 pm.

Colin S. Smith
Colin S. Smith

Colin Smith thinks that Chicago right now is the place to be for music. He works for Illinois Humanities, is a freelance writer, and plays psychedelic-pop songs with his band.