BY CASEY LOWREY
Experimentation is often the hallmark of an exemplary group of musicians. The Airborne Toxic Event’s surprise double release of two new albums, Dope Machines, and Songs Of God and Whiskey, is a complex mirror-sided affair. Dope Machines is a largely electronic affair, eschewing Event’s more acoustic background, in favor of a litany of synth and electric sounds that harkens back to the glory days of Joy Division and New Order. Songs Of God And Whiskey is more in keeping with the band’s acoustic feel that was prevalent in their first album, the self titled The Airborne Toxic Event.
Lead vocalist and front man Mikel Jollett produced the two new LP’s, making sure to instill a new direction for The Event, although Dope Machines and Songs Of God And Whiskey share many of the same themes, at least lyrically, as past records.
The heartache of Dope Machines’ “Wrong” and “Time To Be A Man” make the anguish of “My Childish Bride” (which in and of itself is a beautiful track, both lyrically and instrumentally) fall flat. This is because there is an overwhelmingly brilliant collection of music soaked in synth that is purely focused on the pessimistic struggles of an unlucky male protagonist. Jollett may have sensed this problem, because “Hell And Back” which carries a delicious pop beat and sensibility, makes the lyrical composition (“I must have walked a thousand miles or more trying to keep you off my mind/ I’ve knocked on a thousand doors I’m sure, just to see what I might find/ I slept in the arms of a fallen angel crying next to me, and I knew her well”) whimsical and tongue in cheek.
A contradiction does arise when implying the problems of the dark tone to Songs Of God And Whiskey. That dark lyrical composition fits Songs Of God And Whiskey; one feels that the tracks should continue on the same theme, and it doesn’t get old like on Dope Machines. Songs Of God And Whiskey certainly feels slower than Dope Machines, and this decline in overall momentum works wonders. “April Is The Cruelest Month” and “The Fall Of Rome” are excellent examples of this slow down, and Jollet’s slow coarse vocals allow the songs to pour out tragically and beautifully. Underneath Jollet’s lyrical melancholy are some fantastic tracks that come to life with spectacular horn sections: “Cocaine and Abel,” and “Change and Change and Change and Change” most notably.
Dope Machines and Songs Of God And Whiskey implement an exciting change in sound, while staying true to the emotional underbelly that rides through The Event. Songs Of God And Whiskey is perhaps the better of the two records, simply because the tone and theme of The Event fit best with an acoustic stripped down drawl. Dope Machines’ focus on electric sounds great, amazing even, but it becomes dried out with the same heartbroken theme (and this maybe simply because it starts to wade into a region that was conquered once and for all in the ‘80s). Despite the faults that can sometimes creep up in both records, it is a remarkable, fun, and brave fourth foray for The Event. Hopefully Jollet can keep the momentum going for future efforts.
DOWNLOAD: “One Time Thing,” “Hell And Back,” “Poor Isaac,” “A Certain Type Of Girl,” “The Thing About Dreams”