BAND OF HORSES: Cease to Begin


There are a number of decent releases (the online release of the new Radiohead, for one!) slated to come out tomorrow, October 9th, but the one I'm most excited about is the sophomore release from Seattle's BAND OF HORSES, entitled Cease to Begin.

That band's debut, Everything All of the Time, was an instant classic, lauded by a number of critics. This new record has been the source of some debate, especially online. Some consider it a real dropping off from the first record, while folks like me think it might just be even better than Horses' debut. One of the more hilarious complaints is that this album is too short. This complaint seems a little silly, considering this record is about 56 seconds shorter.

One thing is for sure: produced by Phil Ek, Cease to Begin might be the best Built to Spill album the band has failed to release in the last 6 (or more) years. Where Doug Martsch and company have drifted into caring a little too much about noodling guitars, Band of Horses have streamlined their songwriting on this record, delivering a number of poppier songs that clock in at around the 3-minute mark.

I have to be honest: I've had the album, which leaked on the internet, for months now. I can't stop listening to it, to the point that it's getting ridiculous. My favorite song on the record, and possibly my favorite song of 2007, is the charging "Islands on the Coast." I'm not exaggerating here: I've listened to nothing but this song for a few days on end. I've been going for long walks a few times a week, trying to get back in shape, and on several of those walks, I put that song on Repeat for at least 20 to 30 minutes at a time.

Another song on the record, which I believe is titled "The General Specific" but won't really know until tomorrow (the leaked version of the album had one or two song title swaps), has had a pretty profound effect on me in recent weeks. See, as I'm going to school for a Nursing degree, I am also working in the pediatric intensive care unit at a local hospital. It's a pretty large, pretty reputable transplant hospital, so a lot of the kids on our floor are recent transplants, making them constantly returning visitors.

Recently, one of the kids almost everyone on the floor had taken a shining to died one morning, at the beginning of my shift. Part of my job as a tech when something like this happens is to do hand molds for the family. Hand molds are little cement "statues" we make using that pink dental mold stuff. To make them, you dip the (deceased) child's hands into this solution as it hardens, and then add the "cement" mix later.

On this particular occasion, the family stayed in the room while I did the molds, making an already emotional part of my job almost unbearable. As I made the molds, I stared off at a point in the ceiling, which is painted to look like a cloudy sky, and thought of the words to "The General Specific," a ballad that seems to be about someone leaving the town where they grew up to become anonymous and new somewhere else. I had been listening to the song on my way to work that morning, but the lyrics really struck me in a new way as I hid my crying from the family of this dead child:

(Again, this is my interpretation. . . he could very well be singing something entirely different. . . under a completely different title. . . )

Take a little walk when the worst is too cold
When I saw you looking like I never thought.
You say you're at a loss, or forgot,
that words can do more than harm.
The town is gonna talk. Well, these people do not
see things through to the very minimal.
What's it gonna cost to be gone
If we see you like I hoped we never would?
Eyes can't look at you any other way.
Any other way, any other way.
Eyes can't look at you any other way.
Any other way, any other way.
So take it as a salve, or a lesson to learn
and sometime soon, be better than you were.
You say you're gonna go. . .
well be careful. . .
and watch how you treat every living soul.
My eyes can't look at you any other way,
any other way, any other way.

Those last few lines kept going through my head. . . especially "sometime soon, be better than you were" and "be careful, and watch how you treat every living soul. . ." until I had to leave the room and weep in the bathroom. It's pretty amazing how something can change the context of a song. For all I know, this could be some tune about lead singer Ben Bridwell's crazy ex-girlfriend. For me, it will be linked to that moment in my life forever.

Regardless of your interpretation, the song itself is probably worth the price of the whole album (which, I believe, is going for $7.99 at Best Buy tomorrow). I'm not including it tonight to hopefully encourage people to check it out for themselves. Luckily, the rest of the record is worth paying for, as well.

From Cease to Begin:
"Is There a Ghost"
"Islands on the Coast"

From Everything All the Time:
"The Great Salt Lake"
"The First Song"

From the Band of Horses tour EP:
"The Great Salt Lake (live)"
"The Snow Fall" (original demo for "The First Song")

From the "The Funeral" 7":
"The End's Not Near"

Original version of "End's Not Near" by THE NEW YEAR:
"End's Not Near"


joel said...

As always, I appreciate your introducing a great few songs. Stupid question: Doesn't that horse image look alot like Besnard Lakes'?

Dylan Gaughan said...

Hmm. I guess a little, though there's is just one horse.

I doubt they've cornered the market on bad horse paintings, though. Plus, I just got this from an image search. It's not the album cover.


nlm0.0mln said...

an emotional post Dylan. thanks for sharing. it's refreshing to hear how individuals connect to songs instead of the robotic "sounds like..." reviews. yet another reason to keep coming back to the pimp's page.

Chris Wright said...

Fantastic that you are putting up tracks from The Original Band Of Horses EP, is there any chance of getting the other tracks put up at all. As the EP is like gold dust in the UK. Cant believe I missed tickets for them In London UK on 29th Nov but cant wait for tour next year. Any chance at all? Keep up the good work