Ceremony Rocket Fire

[Killer Pimp; 2010]

Styles: shoegaze, noise pop
Others: A Place to Bury Strangers, Skywave, The Jesus & Mary Chain, New Order

In 2003, Fredricksburg, Virginia trio Skywave released a fabulous shoegaze album called Synthstatic. While the band’s singer/guitarist Oliver Ackerman eventually split for New York and formed A Place To Bury Strangers (to much acclaim), the other two-thirds of Skywave (Paul Baker and John Fedowitz) went on to form Ceremony. The acts, despite sharing an affinity for crushingly loud guitars, displayed a clear aesthetic divide: while Ackerman’s APTBS exist at the noisier end of the shoegaze spectrum, Ceremony dwell at the more overtly pop end, which is to say that Rocket Fire has far more in common with New Order than The Jesus & Mary Chain’s Psychocandy.

Ceremony may not be “original,” but they are exceedingly good at what they do. Considering the absurd number of shoegaze bands from around the world, one would think that the probability for one of them to create something decent would be pretty good, right? Sadly, modern efforts are mired in a cliché soup of effects that barely masks their inability to craft compelling songs. Many of these very groups fail to comprehend how My Bloody Valentine could have transcended the genre, or how groups like Slowdive, Ride, and Swervedriver could use walls of guitar and effects to complement songs that would’ve sounded great even without them. So when I come upon Ceremony, who so clearly understand how to do this stuff right, I find it hard to give them much flak for operating within a formula that seems to be working for them, not against them.

Over the course of 10 tracks, Ceremony rip through a tight set of hits, with enough bombast to satisfy the more sadistic shoegaze fans and enough pop hooks to satisfy the rest. While the album is mired in sameness from top to bottom — I hoped for just one song that might begin with a loping bass riff or some dark dirge rather than the predictable, major-key-heavy style in which they take so much comfort — it might’ve been more of an issue if it weren’t for the earworm catchiness and the echo-laden vocals that sound like they’re coming from two cans connected by string. And while you won’t find paint-peeling feedback streaks here, the guys in Ceremony certainly haven’t dialed back the volume since those days in Skywave: Rocket Fire is a loud album that greatly benefits from powerful speakers.

It all amounts to a solid debut from a promising band. If we’re lucky enough to get two great bands out of Skywave’s remnants, then I’ll gladly take it. Rocket Fire makes up for my own recent disappointment with Serena-Maneesh’s sophomore album and Asobi Seksu’s regression into the kind of rote late-90s pop typically associated with bands on Polyvinyl. Here’s to hoping Ceremony can capitalize on this momentum and craft a follow-up that proves they can do more than just admirably emulate their forebears.

Links: Ceremony - Killer Pimp

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