TRACK BY TRACK – OUGHT’S NEW RECORD “SUN COMING DOWN”
It’s difficult to pin point exactly what’s so alluring about Ought. Almost exactly equal parts visceral to cerebral, their music lays all of its influences out on the canvas but presents post punk in a fresh and exciting way.
The Montreal-based outfit were thrust into the spotlight following the release of their debut record “More Than Any Other Day” in the opening half of last year, despite forming merely 18 months prior and being barely able to legally drink. Their sound is familiar – albeit somewhat distinguished from their contemporaries and those they draw influence from – perhaps most notably because they aren’t afraid of going off on a tangent and welcome a healthy dose of improvisation in the studio (or so it would appear).
The band’s sophomore album, “Sun’s Coming Down” was released on Constellation Records on September 18, just a couple of months after releasing their 7-minute centrepiece “Beautiful Blue Sky”. On the whole, the record seems to be borne from jams. There is an apparent synergy between members which makes it obvious that the band have spent the interim between records touring (read: playing together, a lot).
In the month leading up to the album’s release, Ought teased us further when they dropped opening track “Men for Miles”. The track starts tight and focused, very much guitar driven and with a purpose. Front man Tim Darcy sounds more perturbed than ever. He mutters his little motifs over and over again, sounding like a parrot high on amphetamines. I can’t help but notice how much he sounds (or attempts to sound) like Mark E Smith. One could be forgiven for thinking this was setting the scene for the rest of the record.
“Passionate Turn” is certainly the most unusual number on this collection of tracks. It would appear this is a breakup song, but strangely optimistic. Like that feeling when the rain breaks and the sun comes out, or the catharsis of a big, long cry (or so I’m told). This is the band like we haven’t heard them to date, Darcy’s lyrics sound drunk and schmaltzy, and the guitarist sounding like he just wants to show off his exotic guitar lines.
“The Combo” starts off with all cylinders firing – Frenetic but dense, I can’t help but get the impression that they’re playing a little faster than their comfort zone. Much like others on this record, they throw a curveball at us about 60 seconds in and dive straight from whipcrack call and response chords into their more familiar shots of challenging guitar noise.
“Sun’s coming down” sounds like a Built to Spill jam circa “Perfect from Now on” - Expansive, anxious, plenty of discordant guitar noodling. The boys feel like they’re all collectively spiralling into a panic attack. Also worth repeating as much as any other track on the record, you could be forgiven for thinking Mark E Smith is filling in on vox.
“Beautiful Blue Sky” is the high water mark. Being the longest song on the record (coming in at just over 7 mins), the rhythm section chugs along for the entirely of the track with the dynamic being built around the bursts of dissonant guitar intervals and Darcy poking his tongue at the conformities of the bourgeois. After a couple of prolonged climaxes, the last couple of minutes are spent coming down and masturbating to a series of droning feedbacks.
“Celebration” shockingly doesn’t like much of a celebration at all tbh.
“On the Line” is a bloody pearler. Opening with a little monologue full of esoteric allusions (self-absorbed wank?), we get a tempo and then a break into the beautiful sound of a fender guitar being bashed. Forget about a traditional verse, chorus, bridge pop song here folks; this is completely formless and sounds like it was probably born from a jam. The band somehow manages to remain cohesive for 5 minutes despite flirting with the notion of a medley at times. It strikes me at this point how far Darcy’s vocal phrasing and expression has come on this record.
The curtain closes with “Never better”, a cute little victory romp after releasing what will no doubt be on many EOY lists.