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Channels | Waiting For the Next End of the World | review | rock | Lollipop
Waiting For the Next End of the World (Dischord)
by Tim Den
I've pretty much covered all the back-story with my previous review of the Open EP and interview with guitarist/vocalist J. Robbins, so let's just get down to the nitty gritty.
Waiting For the Next End of the World is the debut full-length from Channels, and an eagerly-awaited one it is. Not only does it see Robbins return to his former home of Dischord, it's the culmination of a new endeavor born as much out of marriage, child birth, and mortgages as the continuing urge to perfect one's craft. Calling it a life statement would be putting it slightly. What songs would you write if you'd already fronted two greatly influential bands, worked on countless important records, got happily married, just had a child, and recently built your own studio? Well, if all this happened in 2006, the subject matter probably wouldn't stray too far from the ones found on Waiting For the Next End of the World.
If the title hasn't already given you a hint, this is a record about existential anxiety. Between rampant commercialism, mindless consumerism, materialistic pursuit, and (of course) jock-headed world leaders comparing dick size, can you blame Robbins and the gang for feeling just a tad bit nervous? I certainly wouldn't want to bring up a child in a world this dangerously low on actual art, much less filled with impending doom. So it is with these tightly wound emotions upon which Waiting For the Next End of the World builds its axis, spinning taut, muscular Robbinsisms (both lyrically and musically) until the whirling mass becomes indie pop so smart, Death Cab For Cutie seem like Mongoloids in comparison. Over a sublime melody, Robbins sings "Pranking the homeland hotline/threat level yellow sunshine" on opener "To the New Mandarins," at once mocking Americans' obliviousness to their current place in the world, as well as our people's obsession with authority-dictated fear. The fact that it's catchy as all get-out only helps the listener digest the cold, hard facts.
And that's just it: No matter how truthfully painful the topics might be, the music is always awe-inspiring. Sinewy bass lines wrap around Darren Zentek's propulsive, labyrinthine polyrhythms (that somehow manage to be four-on-the-floor, bedazzling, and complex all at once, due to his eye for details), as Robbins and Morgan croon insanely beautiful harmonies atop blinding guitar work. It's no surprise that many list Robbins as the perfect balance between brain and heart, there is as much emotion in these tunes as thoughtful structuring and arranging. Listeners who find it too mellow simply aren't paying attention; listeners who find it too busy simply don't have ears for intelligent songwriting.
So even as we continue to sell our slave labor to corporations ("The Licensee," a song undoubtedly inspired by Morgan's exhausting commute to her former day job) and watch as SUVs deplete the earth of its resources ("$99.99"), may we find comfort in knowing that at least one band out there is poetically rowing us across River Styx.