The dreaded sophomore slump; is it as common as it seems or do expectations interfere with the listening experience?
After we discover a new band, they tend to become “ours”. That record in your hands makes you feel like you own part of the band now, a rock and roll stockholder proudly holding on to their share. Years of ideas can be explored and expanded on a debut album but the follow-up usually has a much quicker turnaround and is held side by side with that impressive first full-length effort. So how does Ought’s second album Sun Coming Down hold up under the post-punk microscope?
Their quirky and frantic take on the genre is still present, but a few things have changed. The David Byrne aspects of the vocal delivery have been traded in for what is clearly a strong affinity for the stylings of Fall vocalist Mark E. Smith. Not a bad thing by any means but Smith’s delivery is unique in the way that it is equally sardonic, strange, and compelling in its conviction. Ought vocalist Tim Darcy does his best to emulate this style but at times misses the mark (pun intended).
The music has become a bit more challenging and the hooks from their debut album have now taken a backseat to the guitar work that channels a Sonic Youth or early Glenn Branca sensibility. I am all for angular dissonant guitar work and you can really hear maturation in the band’s compositions. With that being said, I do find myself missing the hooks and having their spazzy one-liners stuck in my head like I did after consuming the first album. Instead of having individual songs stand out in my mind, the album seems to work more as an ongoing course in frantic repetition and tempo shifts.
You’re probably thinking that I can’t seem to make up my mind about how I feel about this album and you are absolutely right. I highly recommend their first album More Than Other Day and urge you to start there and move on to the second album and give it a listen. I am going to continue listening to it and see if this is one of those albums that takes some time to sink in and take hold.
It hasn’t struck me as a slump or a triumph just yet, so let’s reconvene at a later date and discuss the album at our local record shop or show my fellow music junkies.