Explosions In The Sky How Strange, Innocence

[Sad Loud America; 2000]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: instrumental rock, dramatic soundtrack music
Others: Mogwai, Mono, Maserati, Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Now that these intrepid instrumental rockers have got audiences 'ready for the football' with their contribution to the Friday Night Lights soundtrack, I'm hoping the next move is the re-release of their hard to find debut, How Strange, Innocence, on CD. This album, while lacking the epic, apocalyptic feel of Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die…, is just as strong as the rest of their available output. In some ways it’s a bit better than their most recent release, The Earth is Not A Cold, Dead Place. The heroics are more direct, creating songs that drift into thought as well as your body. Stellar opener, “A Song For Our Fathers,” definitely steals the show, beginning with helicopter sounds and slowly building to a crescendo that may have sounded bigger with the second LP's production, but still cuts to the quick.

"Snow and Lights" works similarly to "Greet Death," beginning with a heavily charged post-rock roar before falling into lilting, forlorn noodling. It is noodling, even if it contains emotional depth, because it doesn't work against listener expectations. Instead it bolsters them for hopefully another return to cacophony. This does not come in on "Greet Death", but nearly does for the eight minute plus, "Snow and Lights," where we get machine gun snare and a return to the opening attack. The latter part of How Strange, Innocence is decidedly more subdued than its opening songs but brings a very down to earth approach to a decidedly well worn listlessness, incarnate in the down-tempo post rock formula.

I remember when I saw this band open for Trail of Dead, and somebody in the audience shouted "play a fuckin song" during one of their more restrained, elliptical passages. When this happened, I realized I was being hypnotized by the music and this jerk had broken the spell. If you are anything like this guy, and lack the patience to appreciate delicate, occasionally staid and carefully composed rock movements, then this recording is not for you. Though, to these ears, this is innately thematic, and sweetly melancholic music (with 'songs') that only get stale if you're not in the right, reflective kind of mood.

This album shows, like the best of Explosions in the Sky's material, how instrumental rock can still speak volumes toward the dismal wonder with which one can look at the chaos that is human life. It says all the things words can't convey. It might be interesting to hear this band do something with a vocalist, but I don't think it's altogether necessary to expand their sound. If their last release lacked the impact of this or the following album, it is probably due to its lack of bombast. How Strange, Innocence, despite slowing down some after "Magic Hours", closes out with a song called "Remember Me as a Time of Day" that is ear-bleedingly ferocious and such a dense cacophony that you forget this is an inherently melodious group. It's an album that crashes and burns, but in the best way imaginable. If it gets re-released, or you can find it on-line, this slab of internecine post rock rescue is certainly well worth your money/time.

1. A Song for Our Fathers
2. Snow and Lights
3. Magic Hours
4. Look into the Air
5. Glittering Blackness
6. Time Stops
7. Remember Me as a Time of Day