LOSE’ finds Cymbals Eat Guitars on the top of their game


Colin Moore

“LOSE” is Staten Island-based independent rock group Cymbals Eat Guitars’ third album, and features the same lineup and producer as their 2011 album “Lenses Alien,” save for the drummer.

Yet, something fundamental seems to have changed for the band from their first two spaced-out records to the remarkably coherent and straightforward “LOSE.”LOSE

All three of Cymbals Eat Guitars’ albums feel something like lost minor classics, but “LOSE” makes its case with much more immediacy and poignancy.

It’s also the first to place frontman Joseph D’Agostino’s frankly brilliant lyrics in the foreground. Touted as a catharsis for the loss of D’Agostino’s closest friend and collaborator seven years ago, “LOSE” ends up being less an impenetrably personal document of grief and more a poetic, beautiful album about memory and adulthood.

Musically, “LOSE” is another fantastic guitar rock album in a recent batch of them, though it sounds little like its contemporaries. As in the past, there are traces of Built to Spill and Modest Mouse, but Cymbals Eat Guitars now sound much more confident and singular.

Their trademark noise jams, keyboard textures, and multipart songs are organized here into a flowing whole due to compositional restraint and an inclination towards a live sound, as though the listener is in the room. As a result, the specific intent behind each song becomes crystal clear.

A stormy monologue of adolescent romantic angst is set to the dramatic, shifty build of “Place Names” The story of living alienated in a large city gets a strutting, luminescent single straight from the 80s in “Chambers.” A memory of being trapped in traffic in a snowstorm becomes a slow-burning psychedelic nostalgia trip in “Laramie.”

Though each track evokes something very specific, D’Agostino’s vivid, surreal, and startling revelatory lyrics elevate the mood of the album to something very relatable and touching.

Motifs such as prescription drug use, long, meaningless drives, and the mythic representation of figures from the past recur throughout. It adds up to the harrowing feeling of being on the verge of a life that might be disappearing before you can enjoy it. D’Agostino says it best himself on album standout “XR:” “Wanna wake up wanting to listen to records/But those old feelings elude me.”

That said, moments like the triumphant guitar solo and shades of brass on opener “Jackson Whites,” the harmonica refrain on “XR,” and the apocalyptic organ throughout closer “2 Hip Soul” give “LOSE” an urgent, positive energy that encourages and rewards repeat listening.

Though D’Agostino claims to have been “mapping the abyss since 2007,” “LOSE” feels like the first time he’s getting a clear picture.

The way he represents and reinterprets the profound feelings that, like any human being, he has is encouraging as a fan of honest to goodness poetry. The fact that he’s successfully welded that poetry to his band’s best set of thrilling, knockout rock songs is hard evidence that he’ll be mapping the abyss to some excellent music for a while yet.

Story: Colin Moore, A&E Reporter