Reading the reviews for Exit Calm’s eponymous debut, it seems that the scene that celebrates itself is at it again. Phrases like “best since,” “of the decade,” and “of the century so far” are being hurled about with reckless abandon. I, for one, am not buying it. Granted I did have to listen to some of the songs on this album a few times to fully appreciate them, but that is only because I fell asleep twice trying to listen to it.
It isn’t that it’s bad. You’ve Got It All Wrong and Hearts and Minds are both exceedingly well-crafted tracks that stay with you long after the record has stopped spinning, with craftsmanship being the key word. The technical talent of these four Yorkshire lads (Nicky Smith, Rob Marshall, Simon Lindley, and Scott Pemberton, augmented here by mix-master Ulrich Schnauss) is unquestionable—it just isn’t quite enough. In moments of social-critical engagement, like the two songs mentioned above, Exit Calm is at its best. When the subject matter turns inward however, the band’s eyes drift back down to the stage and the lyrics fade into the background. This isn’t to say that the other tracks are clichéd, merely that they are lyrically undistinguished.
“Undistinguished” characterizes much of the album, with very little separating the sonic ambiance of one piece from another. Even tempo barely shifts over the course of the last six songs. Variety has never been a forte of the genre, and the criticism won’t weigh heavily on nu-gazers, but it demands to be mentioned. All of the songs on the album clock in at over five minutes and, given their uniformity, they all go on at least a full minute longer than they should. Even the good ones. And I say this as someone who has, on more than one occasion, castigated a radio station’s programming director for playing only twelve minutes of Shine on You Crazy Diamond.
All art should be judged in proportion to its aims. Seen in perspective, this is a beautifully put together record with a narrow audience. If you’re into A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve and hate Oasis with that peculiarly obsessive hatred that comes from almost liking them, you will love this album, and doubtlessly send me angry letters for panning it. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something that can transcend the limitations of classic shoegaze and rise to the level of great rock n’ roll, Exit Calm won’t be anything to get excited about.
Exit Calm online: http://www.myspace.com/exitcalm