Let me preface this by saying, I think Do Make Say Think are just about the best band on this little planet and I have been consistently blown away more by each subsequent album. So now that's out of the way, let me preface something else. I've always hated the word fusion - I think jazz fusion is crap, for the most part. When I see anything mentioned as being some sort of fusion, I instantly prejudge it and assume I won't like it. So enough about me, let's talk about the kingpins of the Constellation label (as far as I'm concerned anyway. Godspeed hasn't put out anything that can compete with DMST in a while. "& Yet & Yet" was so much better than "Yanqui UXO"). The first track, "Frederica," opens in very typical DMST style: a catchy and somewhat complex, quiet guitar riff, along with moaning bass. The drums kick in and we're going along fine; I'm nodding my head in rhythm. So far I'm pleased; this is the Do Make Say Think I know and love, and they seem to be revisiting the thi--- wait, now what? Around 3:00 minutes into track #1, they change tempo and the bass starts playing this insanely catchy riff, and the guitars just kind of float overhead. Oh, and the 2nd drummer (delightful!) comes in. This is fucking great. I'm already hooked. The two drummers in DMST are fucking great and this band would only be half as good without them. Then the horns start creeping in. And then at the five minute mark of track one, this album kicks your ass for the first time. (There are many times after this also.) I was sitting on the bus when I first heard this, and my jaw literally dropped. This is post rock done right; this makes fusion a good word; this is incredible. But they only tease you with about 45 seconds of it, and then they get quiet again, with lightly strummed guitars and minimal drumming accenting each beat. Just as you've caught your breath and are ready to say "Hey, that was pretty good. That one minute of the song was incredible, but..." they kick your ass all over again. They build up the song, the beat gets faster, the horns start creeping back in, and at 7:45 it explodes. And then it quiets again for about 15 seconds, and then the big fat beat of both drummers comes roaring back and the opening guitar riff is played over the catchy-as-hell bassline, and... well, you get the point. There are so many elements to the first song, I would have been happy there.
Track 2 is a short piece that is all strings. It's nothing great, but it gives you a minute before the stunning "Auberge Le Mouton Noir" kicks in. The opening guitar riff reminds me of old rock songs, in that anthemic sort of way, but I love it. Two drummers have rarely been used better (with the possible exception of the Tortoise live show I saw in February), and this song just flows through you. This is DMST at their best; simple guitars with lead parts layered over them, two drummers, and a simple bass line to keep the whole thing together. The song picks up with a boom-chuck beat which makes me want to dance. At one point, the bassist starts harmonizing, and then the distorted guitars come in and the album once again does what? Kicks your ass, that's right. It swells to a close like a huge pipe organ, before letting you down slowly and concluding the first part of the album, which is the "Winter Hymn."
The "Country Hymn" third opens with "Outer Inner & Secret.? It starts with a bass line that is basically a scale, and an understated beat which makes you wonder "Where the fuck is this going to go?" The song builds slowly and keeps building until the drumming picks up and it gets so loud you feel your teeth breaking out of your gums. At 5 minutes, we're in full flight, soaring through clouds and slowly descending, and then slowly rising up again through the clouds. The build up and decompression in this song are almost unbearable; you know where it's going, but the anticipation is what makes this absolutely stellar. No band is a bigger tease, and nobody does it better (see their song "Goodbye Enemy Airship" off the album of the same name). By the time the screeching slide guitars are going at full force in the chaos, you feel like you've just received the Xmas gift you picked out for yourself in September, but couldn't have until Xmas day. You knew it was there, but still find yourself saying "Thank you" over and over again until you've made an ass out of yourself. You are allowed to bask in the moment while horns lull you at the end. They then seamlessly move into "107 Reasons Why", another simple and short piece that is good, but nothing to write home about. It does prepare you for the jazzy "Ontario Plates." This song starts out with jazz-like drumming, a horn, and a bass. DMST prove their versatility; they could pull it off as a small jazz combo if this whole post rock thing doesn't work out for them. The highlight of this song is the fantastic drumming. Both drummers are playing off each other perfectly on this track, and the accompanying instrumentation (the guitars eventually come back) is just along for the ride. Then it all slows down to a virtual stop. The drums go away, the horns are no longer there, and we just hear them lightly strum an electric guitar. Then the guitar gets more abrasive and you're confused. Was that just a 5 minute drum solo? Is that it? Oh fuck! Everything just hits you like a fucking freight train. The instant energy that is produced when this song takes off and all comes back together can be felt through headphones. The last two minutes of "Ontario Plates" may, in fact, be Do Make Say Think's best moment ever. And then, as abruptly as it hit you, it's gone and the song is over. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.
So you've already more than got your money's worth on the first two "EPs" of this "3 EP" album. But lucky us, there are still 3 more tracks to go. I have no goddamn clue what to expect at this point. "Horns of a Rabbit" kicks off with what sounds like bass being provided by a synthesizer and delayed guitars playing a simple, high-pitched riff over it. Cymbal action starts building up and then a huge booming beat with a loud-as-fuck bass drum explodes and the guitars fade out. The bass synthesizer keeps the song tied together as horns fade in and turn this into an ambient soundscape. Then everything stops except one guitar. Another guitar picks up the pace and fades in, and then the drums drop back in and you're listening to punk rock meets post rock. Strings come in and we're treated to a loud and abrasive mindfuck. If you were 16 and less fragile, you could actually mosh to part of this song. They digitally edit the end of the track and fade into the filler, "It's Gonna Rain," which is nothing of interest, really. The final track sees the return of an acoustic guitar to DMST's lineup and is a really beautiful duet between said guitar and a trumpet at the beginning. Drums finally come in, and the horn becomes a synthesizer; we're treated to their take on indie pop. Seriously. I hate indie pop, but there's something remarkably appealing about this. It's catchy, it's smiley, it's sunshiney, it's all that crap... but it's also moving and disjointed enough that it doesn't get boring. The slide guitars and electronic bleeps keep you aware that this isn't all you're going to get from this track. When it moves into it's final part, the lights slowly come back on. As you bob your head, you are able to fully take in what you've just heard. The horns at the end bid you farewell and you feel like things are right in the world; the credits are rolling and the hero isn't dead.
I had put ridiculous expectations on this album and it lived up to every bit of it and more. I think Do Make Say Think are the best band on the planet right now and that makes me biased, but I don?t care. Not only is this the best album that has come out this year, hands down (and that includes the two pieces of filler!), it also has the three best EPs to come out as well. This album is full of so much energy and emotion it's contagious. Listen to it all the way through, or listen to it in pieces, and it will still have the same effect: It will kick your ass and then wrap it's warm arms around you and make you realize the world is a better place for this album being here. 9/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)