Album Review – Sun Coming Down / Ought

Ought’s More Than Any Other Day was a surprise success story, resulting in some of the most solid post-punk in recent years, existing in the same wordy, punkish vacuum as Protomartyr, Mourn or Cloud Nothings. They followed the album up almost immediately with the EP Once More With Feeling…, which had more of the same. Then, once again not too long after, Sun Coming Down pops into existence. Ought have the same restless creativity as their contemporaries, especially the constantly-productive Parquet Courts. Sun Coming Down is another example of a solid release for Ought, producing some of their best songs yet. The instrumentation and style are often repetitive, leading to some songs feeling like clones, despite being a short 8-track record. But the sound itself that they are repeating isn’t necessarily bad, in fact it’s pretty infectious.

The moments where the band break from repetition leads to some spectacular moments. ‘Beautiful Blue Sky’, the lead single and longest track on the album has a Strokes-cum-Protomartyr sound sees the band begin slowly, not instantly delving into jagged guitars weaving around each other. When those guitars do come in, they sound sloppy enough to be easy, but have a controlled-chaos about them. The band reel everything in after the chorus, the drums getting brighter as the song goes further towards the chorus of frontman Tim Beeler repeating ‘I feel alright’ and other conformist nonsense like ‘beautiful weather today’. When his criticism ceases, he recognises ‘That’s all we have / and the big beautiful blue sky’. His vocal delivery is quirky and awkward, a bit like Talking Heads’ David Byrne. The ending of the track sees the band dip into jamming and droning repetition. Before, this part of the track seemed unnecessary, but in the context of the album it feels like the obvious precursor to the next track, ‘Celebration’, a more punky song.

The best song on the album, ‘Never Better’, closes out the tracklisting. Whilst it sounds familiar in the grand scheme of Ought with its pause-play vocals, the bridge is a fuzzy and claustrophobic heaven. The drums are a little ‘background noise’ but the guitars and bassline work perfectly together. Beeler sings ‘This is the high watermark in civilisation’ and ‘I am riding in a truck filled with everything’ in his typical cynicism. However, after an album’s worth of the same material, the non-conformist agenda becomes tedious. Ought are so desperate to create this image of dark, lyrical post-punk that they become a self-serious caricature of Interpol.

The production on the album is often lacklustre and lo-fi for the sake of being lo-fi. A lot of the instrumentation, particularly drums, are low in the mix and Beeler’s voice often isn’t recognisable beyond his yelps. Lyrics fade into the background and distortion clouds clarity in the name of DIY Punk. Moments of clarity, such as the opener ‘Men For Miles’ makes the lyrics recognisable and the drums punch through occasionally. Beeler sings ‘There were men for miles / doesn’t it just bring a tear to your eye’ with guitars ripped from a Parquet Courts record and Ought’s dark production slapped on top. As an opener, it should predict the rest of the record perfectly, and if that kind of quality was kept up Sun Coming Down might have a little more transparency.

Though Ought have pulled through Sun Coming Down with a few of their best songs yet, the cohesiveness and organisation of the record lets it down. It’s mercilessly (some might say punkily) short and the eight tracks either could’ve benefited from several lengthenings or just more songs. However, for Ought as a whole, it’s a solid, if not inspired, follow-up to More Than Any Other Day and cements their place in the forefront of the DIY post-punk that’s flooding North America right now. Beeler is still an enigmatic frontman with an original voice, but too often the chaos around him can’t quite match his stiff, direct vocals and lyrics.

4/10

Funnel Recommends: Beautiful Blue Sky / Men For Miles / Never Better

Advertisements