Album Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars Rip Through Post-Modernist Experimental Rock With ‘Lenses Alien’

Once the poster children of ’90s noise-rock reinvention, New York City-based band [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Cymbals Eat Guitars[/lastfm]‘ new album Lenses Alien on [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Barsuk[/lastfm] still retains the sonic and lyrical influences of bands like [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Pavement[/lastfm],[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Nada Surf[/lastfm], and early [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Weezer [/lastfm], but Cymbals Eat Guitars has switched out the cryptic quirk for something infinitely more classical and, therefore, enduring.

Though Lenses Alien could easily be seen as a musical study in the inherent beauty of dischord, the staggering complexities of the first (and a little over eight minutes) song, “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name),” possesses less a wayward grunge cacophony than mathematically-detailed Grecian poetry rife with pathos.

After a grandiose musical interlude a little past a minute into the song, a breakdown so theatrical it sounds like wailing perished souls struggling through a pit of razor-sharp cymbals in Hades, “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)” rips through its remaining flesh with punctuated literary teeth.

Because while “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)” shimmers and shreds spectacularly, Joseph D’Agostino’s warbled, paranoid voice doesn’t leave the cymbals to their aggressive crunch without shocking, almost sociopathic, storytelling. D’Agostino does his best to rip out your soul and imprint it with vividly with the tortured thoughts of a murder,  “but you can’t bore a hole to a cavity where the soul lives.”

As a whole, the album is a veritable beast of cinematic reveals; soundscapes so lush, evocative, and psychologically painful to behold that the listener is uncomfortably left to stew in the nightmarish, alienating juices of reality.

Subsequently, Lenses Alien is a ingenius yet reckless work of art, not a pastiche of mediocre play-driven singles. From the dreamy, dreary chug of “Shore Points” to the smiling screech of ’80s-style [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Cure[/lastfm]-esque guitars on “Keep Me Waiting,” Cymbals Eat Guitars spends the whole album peeling through the inanities of human existence:

Unfulfilled and scraping by /When I fall I’ll knock off at five/Scoot home sped only by a cold wind/Stolen passports/Pouring rain /I couldn’t ever feel the same/I’m glad I’m back/But it’s a goddamn bore

Lenses Alien is a heavy read, a metaphorical treatise on post-modern reality, sometimes as frustrating and cumbersome as a Thomas Pynchon novel.

“Plainclothes” is a disenfranchised murder-mystery, more focused on the ghost-like shells of the already soul-dead inhabitants of the town, “their canceled eyes show through the holes in their sphinx masks.”  

Although there is no need for a sonic revelation with Lenses Alien, the album summarily ends with “Gary Condit,” a clamor of gut-stirring sounds and more world-wearied existential questioning: “Is it teeth-shaking polyphony grace and completion or nothing?”

Lenses Alien-[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Cymbals Eat Guitars[/lastfm]



1. Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)

2. Shore Points

3. Keep Me Waiting

4. Plainclothes

5. Definite Darkness

6. Another Tunguska

7. The Current

8. Wavelengths

9. Secret Family

10. Gary Condit

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