The old Jim Morrison adage of “I don’t know what’s gonna happen…but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames” has never been put into better practice than with the work of Brooklyn-based group Yeasayer. Much has been made of the apocalyptic confirmation that their lyrics surmise, but the songs themselves are buoyed by an optimism that calls for us to revel in whatever few days we may have left.
Their debut album, All Hour Cymbals, is a collection of extravagant tunes that channels such uncertainty into moments of ominous beauty. So much so, in fact, that should we ever be told that the end of the world is imminent, Yeasayer might just find an overwhelming demand for their company.
“We were writing a lot of the songs in the wake of Bush’s re-election,” says singer/guitarist Anand Wilder. “So we were all a little dismayed by that. We felt let down. I think a lot of the songs are either capturing that mood or reflecting how our politicians are ‘end-timers’. I mean everyone’s talking about global warming these days but I think our overall idea with the songs is to have a kind of a darker moment that’s protracted by something that’s much lighter, more upbeat and hopeful.”
Appropriately, All Hour Cymbals makes for an expansive canvas. By forsaking the typical indie rock set-up for a dynamic all their own, the 11 tracks of their debut form a unique musical geography. “When you’re searching for a guitar sound that’s different from your typical Gang of Four kind of thing that everyone’s trying to imitate,” he explains, “one of the places you go to seek new things is world music, like African poly-rhythms and Bollywood soundtracks…Although one thing we should stress is that we’re not just into those sounds. We’re attracted to them because they sound unique. I feel like we’ve grown up in an age where all different kinds of music are treated and appreciated equally, so it’s a case of listening to all these different influences and creating something that’s new and reflective of the times that we’re living in.”
By combining these far-flung influences with sugary, supercharged harmonies, Yeasayer give the impression of unusual and compelling song ideas, winning the admiration of the likes of Arcade Fire and Grizzly Bear in the process. However despite their warm reception, Wilder insists that for their next record, fans should expect something else entirely. “People that liked the first album will probably hate the second one, but we really want to establish ourselves as idiosyncratic, unique musicians who do whatever we want. We’re not going to pander to our ‘world’ music fans or become less hippy, but we definitely want to make the songs more light hearted, maybe less grave lyrical content. A lot more love songs, basically!”
Whether or not their next move is unrecognisable from their last, All Hour Cymbals represents an album of songs colourful enough to disarm the idea of apocalypse, a dystopian celebration that will be tough to top as a poignant soundtrack to our end of days.