New York City quartet Cymbals Eat Guitars got their start by playing Weezer covers when core members Joseph D’Agostino (guitars and vocals) and Matt Miller (drums) were still in tenth grade. Since then, the band has released two critically acclaimed albums, 2009’s Why There Are Mountains and last year’s Lenses Alien. These albums instantly won them the hearts of the heaviest-hitting indie publications like Pitchfork and Stereogum, and earned them tour dates at Lollapalooza and with The Flaming Lips. While it’s too early to know whether this young band will break into the mainstream, it’s safe to say they’ve come a long way.
The band is coming to Mohawk this Saturday, when they will be opening for ‘90s rock veterans Cursive from Omaha, Neb. In addition to D’Agostino and Miller, the current lineup includes keyboardist Brian Hamilton and bassist Matt Whipple. These four 20-somethings are hard at work keeping the spirit of ‘90s indie and shoegaze alive for a new generation of cosmically-minded misfits. What makes D’Agostino’s songwriting so important, however, isn’t that it sounds like early Modest Mouse and Pavement. Cymbals Eat Guitars are indie traditionalists, sure, but they’re also making music that’s dark, serious and captivating — music that deserves to be judged by its own merits.
Typical CEG lyrics, usually sung in D’Agostino’s adenoidal yelp, can get fairly weird. If you ever get “Definite Darkness” from Lenses Alien stuck in your head, be mindful of your location before anyone hears you singing lines such as “there are people who put dirty hypodermic needles between the seat cushions in the movie theaters.” As for their instrumentation, the band is more conservative. The lineup is a power trio plus a keyboardist, augmented by an ever-growing guitar pedal collection that gives them the freedom to switch between apocalyptic feedback swells and clean-tone chords.
Also at the center of the blogosphere lately is D’Agostino’s philosophical lyrics, which have been frequently compared to Modest Mouse vocalist Isaac Brock’s from their albums The Lonesome Crowded West and The Moon and Antarctica. In an interview last October with Radio UTD, D’Agostino was asked about the concept behind “And The Hazy Sea,” which inspired the title of Why There Are Mountains.
“It was basically like dead bodies and bones being piled upon each other and compacted to make layer upon layer upon layer upon layer until there were mountains,” D’Agostino said. “It’s sort of about the ebb and flow of civilizations.”
While there isn’t much to laugh about in their studio work, it’s clear from their official Twitter account (@CYMBLS_EAT_GTRS) that they lighten up pretty fast once they’re away from their instruments. D’Agostino and Whipple generally use the account to share their thoughts on recent music news and crack goofy jokes, such as: “Don’t you wish Will Smith was cast as the Green Lantern? Think about it.”
Of course, their knack for pop culture hypotheticals isn’t why you should see them this weekend. You should see them because Cymbals Eat Guitars are using the same old indie ingredients to make brave new music. Besides, this could well be the last time you’ll get a chance to see them for under $15.
Printed on Monday, April 9, 2012 as: Cymbals Eat Guitars to perform '90s-inspired rock at Mohawk