What We All Come To Need
posted on 11/2009 By:
On the heels of writing about the newest Caspian album, Tertia, I almost find myself at a loss to describe my views on What We All Come To Need, from revered Chicago neighbors, Pelican. While the two are quite separate from each other in musical personality despite plying the same general trade, Pelican are a bit more heavy-handed with their 2009 effort, keeping their sound closer to the ground rather than taking frequent trips to the heavens and smashing back down to earth. It sounds like a midnight autumn drive through our great city instead of a stormy winter vacation in the mountains, and the directness is both casual, heavy, and curiously energetic. Reinvention? Unnecessary.
Even though they caught a fair share of crap for their last release (2007’s expansive City Of Echoes) by taking a sharp turn into more effervescent territory that lost some of their core fan base along the way, Pelican also opened themselves up to a whole new type of listener that appreciate them just as much. As Chris McDonald roughly hinted at with his review of the Ephemeral EP, with this album, it feels like they rolled a nice big, fat joint and invited fans both old and new to come together and partake in a compromised middle ground. While the term “compromise” usually has very negative attachments, in this case I think Pelican played it very smart, but not safe. They’ve taken the roar of old and infused it with the softer inhale that follows, as stoney riffs upon stoney riffs tumble and fall over each other with brazen clarity and confidence. This is what great modern instrumental rock should sound like; equal parts power and passion, a heaping dose of heavy, and each passing moment studded with purpose.
Ready for a reference you totally weren’t expecting? Soundgarden. It's not obvious, but you can almost hear bits of "Spoonman", "Loud Love", and "I Awake" become resurrected among tunes like “Ephemeral”, and the excellently arranged, reinvigorated “An Inch Above Sand” (originally appearing on a split with Young Widows). Granted, there isn’t anything close to an overwhelming similarity, but that same jam session groove of riffs that pretty much dominated the superb Louder Than Love is also heard in bright, echoed form at various points. There are no “Last Days Of Winter” to be found, but whatever restrained mainstream fears their fans had should be squashed by the richness of the overall picture.
What We All Come To Need is just a really, really easy album to listen to, they couldn’t have asked for better compatriots to join them as guest musicians. Isis’ Aaron Turner is in attendance, as well as Ben Verellen of Harkonen, while Greg Anderson of SunnO))) contributes his talents on the bombastic “The Creeper.” Additionally a refreshing surprise appears in the form of Shiner/The Life And Times’ Allen Epley’s vocals (!!!) on the drawling closing track “Final Breath.” It’s an understatedly stunning moment when Allen’s smooth, whispery croon floats to the surface and concludes the disc in swaggering, sly fashion, letting us know these Windy City boys still have a few clever tricks up their sleeves.
Pelican didn’t really have anything to prove, and even less to atone for. There’s certainly nothing wrong with streamlining or expanding your sound as long as you produce high quality in the process, and they do. They may never win back their initial fan base, but then again it shouldn’t even be a concern of theirs at all as long as they continue to put out albums as good as this. I’m confident this record will manage to draw back at least a few stragglers that fell away with City Of Echoes, and it shows Pelican have a lot to offer after nearly ten quick years of helping set the pace for inventive rock in the US. May they fly forever.
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City Of Echoes
The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw
March Into The Sea