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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Chin Up Chin Up
We Should Never Have Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers
Flameshovel Records

Rating: 9/10 ?


October 1, 2004

There are few things more difficult than giving up one's idealism. Having conversations with older people, more knowledgeable of the world and its cavernous drops, can make you face some harsh realities about injustice and inevitability. You don't initially want to believe, but you know these things are true; you can gradually feel some naiveté slipping away, and it's hard.

This movement is entirely fitting in light of the Chin Up Chin Up's recent plight. They lost their bassist, Chris Saathoff, on Valentine's Eve 2004, to an underage drunk driver. While it is wholly inappropriate to boil the band's handiwork down to the repercussions of that event, thematically it touches on loss and gratitude, intimacy, grief and growth. The sincerity of these feelings we can all appreciate, and their experiences color the album a worthy, sunlit gray.

We Should Never Have Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers is a rolling affair, steadily moving along in milky, dreamy tones. Clarity comes with their undeniable focus, as tracks boil over with great attention, and bright, upbeat inclinations are cautiously, arduously, left behind.

Playing on the lovely, intricate securities of bands like the Velvet Teen, Archers of Loaf and early Death Cab for Cutie, there's thoughtfulness, attention to detail and fresh eyes, fit to find awe in the everyday. On the whole, this is an album of hopefulness that loses itself with age; it becomes slightly hardened, even as its surroundings remain beautiful. It's surprising how much of this album is heartened, even grateful, in light of all that has occurred among friends, but perhaps it is their loss that makes them cling so fiercely to the more beautiful things.

The opener, "Why Is My Sleeping Bag a Ghetto Muppet?," is simply fantastic. It has a sweeping, lovesick piano, and is content in building and repeating its complex patterns, making itself comfortable. The hushed vocals establish themselves immediately at the center of the band's sound, and create a personal feel - homebound, yet still awakened by what is seen out of the window.

In kind, the following title track is a bobbling, delicate piece. It has an understated grandeur and emotional caution, like handling fine antiques with clumsy fingertips. It feels like Broken Social Scene in places, just as internally invigorating. "Virginia, Don't Drown" cribs from Built to Spill and unlikely hotshots Modest Mouse with its playful guitars, strung up and down like yo-yos, crashing and connecting with quirky rapport. There's even a little faux-funk dance step to "Collide the Tide" to go step for step with their Mousey compatriots, and it all succeeds in a loveable, overwhelmed way.

Despite its title, "Get Me Off this Fucking Island" is perhaps the most optimistic affair within, victorious and high, resounding with triumph and pride. On the other hand, the closer, "All My Hammocks are Dying" is the only track completed without Saathoff, and in tribute, it features a crushing absence of bass. It takes the album to a more serious place, with amazing detail and layering, but as it is grounded in low-end piano and solid flurries of activity, it marks a complex and serious end to an album so far filled with hope.

There's a turn at that last point - a surprise ending, a drain, an unwanted maturity. Like a child grown up too fast, We Should Never Have Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers loses its innocence to the harshness of the truth. It is an instant change, one that takes the listener by surprise no matter how many times it reveals itself. This feeling is real and relatable, and gives the album an added layer of depth - a layer that it doesn't, in all honesty, even need, since it is already a remarkable success.

Like a great film with an even better ending, one that leaves you reeling and spinning, there is almost too much here to take in at once. While there may be some critics who argue that this album should have been better than it is - specifically, in light of the fact that Saathoff's bass parts were pulled from early 4-track renditions and damper the sound quality, though barely noticeably - I believe anyone would be hard-pressed to deny the movement it evokes.

On the surface, you can dance your way through it, enjoying the idiosyncratic guitar play and instant, friendly connection, but underneath, you can feel your way through it, squeezing through the ringer, noting every authenticity, and coming out stronger than ever. An album that creates pause can count that reaction as a sign of greatness; We Should Never Have Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers brings forth rich reflection, showing humanity as a real achievement. Alongside Chin Up Chin Up, we may learn difficult lessons, but they show that by getting through tribulation, we can make ourselves proud.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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