Great Glass Elevator – Metropolis
Release Date: June 3, 2008
Record Label: Unsigned
Unlike some of my peers, I do not suffer under any delusions of grandeur. I do not imagine that my reviews will drastically alter the landscape of music by any appreciable amount. And as I have aged, I have come to realize that negativity in any review should not be angry, but rather is much better served up as instructional in tone. I have offered up entire discourses on how an album is poor, but what a band can do to improve on it the next time out. Criticism of Great Glass Elevator’s Our Hands Turn Into Machines EP was nowhere near that thorough, of course. The band’s debut Atlantic Records offering was solid, but the only real issue was as I opined last year:
…They don’t do much to make the songs pop. As such, the tracks end up staying a little flatter than they ought to be from a band like this, and curb their own potential with the tendency to stay one-dimensional. It would do the band well to step out a little – a notion they flirt with on the EP’s closer, but never really realize fully.
I really don’t know if the guys in GGE were listening to that point or not, but hot damn, it sure sounds like they were. On Metropolis, Great Glass Elevator have taken their experimental and progressive leanings and have developed them exponentially. Every single track on their new record has a distinct sense of identity, and prove that the band has matured their sound and honed their confidence in kind.
“Uzumaki” starts off with the eerie sense of sedated cool found in abundance on Our Hands Turn Into Machines, but from there, the group rockets away from any hint of inhibition. Whether it be in the rousing hook of “The Claws of Gravity” (wait, GGE has hooks?), rolling guitar licks, raucous chorus, and rap cameo (!) on “Hey Ladies!”, it is clear these guys are not leaving anything on the field. The crew also dabbles in dreamy instrumental tracks that would not sound out of place on an Air album (“Slide”), spacey blues a la Primitive Radio Gods circa White Hot Peach (“Idea Eleven”), and even a dash of showpop theatrics (“Put Me Back Together” and “Dancing with Werewolves”). They even put together a duo of cuts dripping in mainstream appeal in “The Spider, the Snake, and the Fly.” Simply put, this record has it all.
Of course, when bands tend to step out of their proverbial comfort zones, their “adventurous” efforts tend to go over like a lead balloon, despite their best intentions. Not here. Every time Great Glass Elevator tries something new and fresh, they land deftly on their feet, sounding like they have been playing with each apparent new sound for years. It should come as no surprise as well that David Braun’s placid, alluring vocals are as refined as ever, and his band is with him every step of the way in surgical precision.
It is easiest to see Metropolis as analogous to Season 3 of Arrested Development – when each creative bunch knew their days were numbered, they went balls to the wall and pulled out all the stops to realize the full potential on their swan song. Great Glass Elevator: when you have earned comparisons to the comedic Holy Grail, you know you must have done something/everything right. You will be missed.