What did the critics at Pitchfork.com hear when they vetted Why There Are Mountains, the debut album from New York’s Cymbals Eat Guitars? They heard the rumbling, screeching, and howling of an electric guitar (front man Joseph D’Agostino likens it to the sound of a “rock orchestra from hell”), explosive vocals, electric piano on reverb, grandiose heart-tug ballads, and cataclysmic build-and-release songs. Pitchfork described Mountains as an indie road-trip album. They called it a record with a lonesome, if crowded, sound “without hooks and choruses so much as maplike layouts of mountains and sloping valleys.” Whatever. I agree with Pitchfork’s assessment, though, of the band’s writing: arresting conclusions and unpredictable structures, they said. In the end, Pitchfork handed the band a sweet 8.3 (out of 10 possible) and identified them as one of the best new bands, guaranteeing that buzz would surround Cymbals Eat Guitars.
The rest of the rock press loves to compare CEG to Pavement. I’ll bite. Both bands share the same untucked preppy look, and D’Agostino even plays the same type of guitar as Stephen Malkmus. There are similarities in the sound, but Pavement was boring and CEG is not only interesting, they are also more dynamic and sloppy. But to get at the root of CEG song mentality you have to look past Malkmus and similar predecessors like Dinosaur Jr. and go way back to Elliott Smith. Smith and CEG are clever depressives: “I’ve been finding clipped-off Parliaments everywhere lately,” sings D’Agostino. “I take it as a sign that you’re around.” Smith: “I had true love/ But made it die/ Pushed it out of the way.”
But enough with the comparisons. Live, CEG is an unanticipated, entertaining band, and a lot of the act is just them working things out. Remember, this group is new — just three years ago, Joe D’Agostino was graduating from high school.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Depreciation Guild also perform.
CYMBALS EAT GUITARS: The Casbah, Monday, September 21, 8:30 p.m. $12 advance; $14 day of show. 619-232-4355.