THE BOOKS: LOST AND SAFE (2005)
1) A Little Longing Goes Away; 2) Be Good To Them Always; 3) Vogt Dig For Kloppervok; 4) Smells Like Content; 5) It Never Changes To Stop; 6) An Animated Description Of Mr. Maps; 7) Venice; 8) None But Shining Hours; 9) If Not Now, Whenever; 10) An Owl With Knees; 11) Twelve Fold Chain.
You'd think that, with this clear propensity for «pushing boundaries», The Books would eventually start advancing beyond the format of their first album. For most of their predecessors this was, after all, inevitable. From the nightmarish industrial clang of Einstürzende Neubauten to the psychedelic kindergarten of The Animal Collective, they were all moving somewhere. But apparently, that is exactly what Zammuto and de Jong are the most afraid of — that trying to expand their sound and vision will make their «art» more accessible and, consequently, dilute the «importance» of their revolutionary contributions.
Which is certainly correct to an extent: speaking of Animal Collective, now that the world has shed a tear over Merriweather Post Pavillion, how many people are going to remember this band through their first batch of far less accessible, «anti-musical» records? Even despite the fact that, in sheer objective terms, they may have been far more «innovative» per se. Thus, it seems that The Books are willing to lock themselves in this curious state of «perpetual revolution» — not a progressive series of revolutions replacing one another, more like the same group of Bolsheviks running up the steps of the Winter Palace in constant replay mode.
The third album is a little bit longer, a tiny bit more diverse in terms of selection of basic «melodies», and actually features a large amount of vocal work by the band members themselves — sometimes going as far as real singing, usually in a dreary lethargic mode. That's about as far as they allow themselves to go. As for the samples, these now include occasional poetry readings (e. g. from W. H. Auden and «Jabberwocky»), along with the usual obscure movie quotations and bits of street dialog, describing the details of which is excruciatingly boring, and decoding the reasons of inclusion for which is impossible without performing brain surgery on the creators.
You'd think that, perhaps, including a larger proportion of vocals would push these tracks closer in the direction of real songs, but it does not. The minimalistic instrumentation, the chop-and-paste computer effects, the lulling or electronically treated original voices, and the extraneous samples are still interwoven in «art-performance» fashion, so there is no threat of losing the band's precious integrity. In fact, I didn't even notice the change upon first listen — so seamlessly do Zammuto's and de Jong's voices flow into their sample database. I suppose that might be checked as a positive accomplishment.
As a curious exception, I'd list ʽIt Never Changes To Stopʼ, the best thing about which is not the "I don't want to hear any more talking, any more moving about" sample part grumbled out by a seemingly insecure disciplinarian, but rather an excellent overdubbed cello part that is as much Wagner as it is ʽI Am The Walrusʼ. Its very presence makes the sound louder and fatter than just about everything else on here, and teasingly proves that these guys can make actual music when they feel like it. They just don't, most of the time.
The bottomline turns out to be the same as usual. If you are sleeping, Lost And Safe may wake you up — slim chances, though, because it won't wake you up by itself: you'll have to find it first, meaning that only authentic somnambulists are eligible. If you consider yourself wide awake, I fail to see any potential emotional or intellectual stimulation here that could be genuine. Just one more hollow attempt at breeding a new cultural stimulus that is only alive as long as there is a firm feeding hand to breed it. Sure ain't my hand, though — my hands go thumbs down!