REVIEW: Tera Melos – ‘X’ed Out’

TeraMelosFeature

Artist: Tera Melos
Album: X’ed Out
Genre: Indie Pop, Math Rock
Label: Sargent House

I had this album for review two weeks before it came out. I listened to it probably close to twenty times in that first week of April, which was an emotionally negative time for me, and I really thought this was possibly my favorite Tera Melos album when it first hit me. But I waited. I waited because it was a different Tera Melos album, and I didn’t know if that love would last.

It has and it hasn’t.

Long time fans of Tera Melos will associate them with fellow math rockers Giraffes? Giraffes! and Hella, whose drummer, Zach Hill, may now be best known as the drummer for Death Grips and has also done a side project with Nick from Tera Melos called Bygones. To me, Tera Melos and Hella are the two definitive Sacramento experimental bands — bands that first broke down the barrier of what can be done in a “rock” outfit, pushing the limits further than anyone since Captain Beefheart (and G?G! would be there, but they were never from Sacramento). A few releases into their career, Tera Melos became a one guitar band and Nick began expanding his role as a vocalist, using his voice less and less like an additional instrument and more and more attempting to write actual songs. My favorite number from Tera Melos is still probably “Purple and Stripes” off Patagonian Rats, with its creative guitar play, outside-the-box structure, laid back vocal delivery, and personal lyrics like “Mom and dad were shaken up / Found the entrance to your underground / Your sister’s friends recall you speaking out in tongues / Without a trace of bone, just cartilage / that makes for bending sense.”

But those songs still lacked pop structure, still lacked conformity in any way. This may have been a bad thing to some and a good thing to others; it didn’t really affect me either way, so long as I could still bob my head to some parts and shake my body crazily to others, all while occasionally singing along with some heartfelt moments, it was good music and fuck analysis.

The songs on this record have a far more standard structure. The music on this record, while still experimental, is far less innovative than past releases. The lyrics are seemingly still from the heart, so true fans of Tera Melos shouldn’t be too afraid to dive in. There’s something new here with the added structure; it’s almost like Nick was finally willing to let his Weezer influences come through in songwriting, or as if he decided he was done with “Sacramento noise” and decided he would add some “Brooklyn indie” spice to the band’s normal flavoring. The change in sound decidedly shows why they’ve garnered more coverage from bigger outlets like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. But is it better? It’s hard to say.

My least favorite song on the record is one of the first ones that came out, “Slimed,” which feels more like a two-riff King Crimson ripoff with some deliberately noisy parts added in more than an actual song. More often than not, the songs do feel like songs… but I can’t decide if this decision to focus more on songwriting and less on music is good for its better songs or bad for its less interesting music.

Ultimately, I believe veteran Tera Melos fans will like it but won’t develop the love they have for nearly every previous TM release. I believe this record is their most accessible, and will bring them new fans with each additional new piece of coverage, each new person to hear a song off this record (if you’re going to check out one, I recommend “Until Lufthansa”). But this review took me forever to write, because half the time I listened to it, it was the best indie pop record I’ve heard in the past six months, and the other half of the time, it was the weakest math rock record Tera Melos has done. Personally? I really like it, but it’s not my favorite. But if there was ever a record that had a chance of polarizing a “math” band’s fan base, Tera Melos’ X’ed Out is it.

Rating: 7.0/10
Review Written By: Dan Bogosian (Twitter)

 

Dan Bogosian

I finished school with a music theory degree. Before I finished school, I was a janitor. You really should apologize to all the janitors you've ever had. You hurt them. Seriously. You did.

But, now that we've cleared that up and you called your high school janitor, know that I quit being a janitor to pursue writing about music. So here I am, and here you are, and hey how are you?
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