Pelican - _City of Echoes_
(Hydra Head Records, 2007)
by: James Montague (
The hype surrounding Pelican seems to have calmed in the last couple of years after they stormed onto the scene with their highly acclaimed _Australasia_ album in 2003 -- which, along with the excellent _March Into the Sea_ EP (2005), convinced me that words like "post-hardcore", "sludge" and "drone" need not be dismissed with an indifferent shrug. With monolithic riffs that achieved stunning levels of earthly beauty, the fully instrumental group seemed to have discovered an exciting new musical path.Unfortunately, they seemed to abandon their modus operandi with _The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw_ (2005), an album that saw them clean up their sound to the detriment of their natural charm. And although _City of Echoes_ does make superficial attempts to revive their former majesty, it comes across only as a pale imitation.In reviewing the band during their halcyon days, I likened Pelican to the bird of the same name, a freak of nature whose lumbering grace is a wonder to behold. The music soared despite the awkward weight of its carriage, heavy and distorted major chords bringing about an unlikely aesthetic climax. In this case though, the heavy riffs don't convey much in an artistic sense; they serve only to provide moments of headbanging force. In between, the two guitarists noodle about somewhat aimlessly, serving up agreeable melodies but nothing of greater substance.It seems to me that Pelican's relevance will only continue to wane, since the more they try to perfect their craft, the further they drift from the flawed splendour that made them great. It's probably time to think of a new direction, maybe including a vocalist. For the time being, all they've got are decent background tunes that occasionally seize the listener's attention before fading away with a whimper.
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