Explosions in the Sky
All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
t’s funny and a little distressing that people describe EITS as “post-rock.” Post-rock’s greatest promise was that it would zero what a traditional band could do by incorporating jazz, 20th century avant-garde, and electronic influences. Its greatest irony is that it died out before Staind or neocolonialism or land-line telephones. Explosions in the Sky make slightly melodramatic, overly gorgeous guitar-based music with no vocals and lots of well-placed crescendos leading to crashing drums and some consonant distortion. No remorse, no ambition. Their most progressive element is reverb and their rises and falls are as reliable as the moon’s. EITS are about as post-rock as the Enlightenment or unregulated whaling.
EITS scores the television adaptation of the Texan high-school drama Friday Night Lights. Few roles are snugger fits, few jobs less appropriate. And they’ve always wanted it that way: with EITS, commutes become frost-bitten excursions into purple nights; dull hours at work become fodder for a montage of you, trembling with psychic pain. Every line deserves a slow blink and a turning of the head to the side, slowly…and cut—shock your ass with a Camry ad. Take “Friday Night Lights”: Jason Street’s newly paraplegic, and he’s trying to figure out how he’s going to place his erection in his fetching ex-girlfriend, but can’t; it’s engaging, dramatic, and even a little moving. EITS bubbles under. Rook QB Matt Saracen is throwing garbage and Coach Taylor is not happy. Read the pain on his face, read the disappointment of Coach. EITS bubbles under. This is how network television drama works: something important happens and the music is there. It’s there as an aid and as a response. It wouldn’t be the same without it.
“Friday Night Lights” doesn’t expand the boundaries of anything and doesn’t have to. It works in the same way the music of EITS “works”—a time-tested narrative given a mysterious freshening by corporate sorcerers. Aestheticians waste full brains trying to figure out why we respond to certain patterns of tension, climax, and release; whether we’re bred into narrative expectations or conditioned. These excursions usually end up at shroomy half-assertions about how the face of a St. Bernard feels sad because the cadences of its flesh and folds suggests to us the contours of sadness. Live with that for a minute.
Criticizing EITS for being an “unsubstantial,” formulaic band or a band that doesn’t make objects d’art would be stupid, and it’s certainly not my intention. Their music though—and probably the reason they’re used to such great effect in “Friday Night Lights”—actually feels more compelling as an accompaniment to visual drama, in part because the internal drama of the songs themselves are really specific and their presentation is a little tired. Once the teat of pre-millennial fear ran dry, Mogwai and Godspeed! You Black Emperor, aesthetic kin to EITS, gave up in their own separate ways. The unveiling of a piano is not a plot twist.
All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone does have about three surprises, all of which have a certain forced quality to them. When, four minutes into “What Do You Go Home To?,” the mounting bass drum doesn’t explode into a godly shower of cymbal crashes and sparkly guitar backed by a conservative amount of reverb, I don’t feel my expectations being stretched. I do not feel the queer magic of innovation. I feel absolutely nothing. After three reassuringly predictable albums, I just need them to do what I expect.
What it comes down to is that reviewing this album is like trying to think really hard about the US Postal Service. The mail arrives every day. Sometimes my magazines are a little bit ripped and come in a plastic sleeve with a rigid apology printed on it. Mostly though, mail delivery offers almost no excitement and even less surprise, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.