Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Groan. Raise your hands if you are thoroughly tired of that cliche, especially in the context of another music review. It’s one of the old fallbacks of our net-dwelling kind, along with unfortunate phrases like transitional album, failed experiment, back to basics and sophomore slump. Still, there’s times when the maxim is painfully relevant, and though it’s often used as a kind of backhanded compliment (if complimentary at all), in the case of one Ana Never, a Serbian trad-post-rock combo, it’s definitely forward-handed and praising.
Ana Never love Godspeed. A lot. Like, a ‘carve their name in a tree’ or a ‘kiss their picture and put it under their pillow at night’ kind of love. These dudes probably came of age drawing ‘Faulty Schematics Of A Ruined Machine’ all over their textbook covers. And who am I to talk? God knows I’m one of their number, if anyone. Even a substandard fan-placating stopgap album can’t quell my love for those wacky Quebecians. There are far worse bands to imitate than the almighty Godspeed.
And the fact is, groundbreaking is an entirely overrated concept in music. While it’s necessary for a new and compelling sound to emerge every so often to keep things fresh and invigorating, many of us, in our unsnobby heart of hearts, love and crave the familiar, the expected, the reassuring rush of melody in a genre that reminds us of what drew us to those exotic climes in the first place. From the first notes of ‘Future Wife’, the first track on Ana Never’s Fluttery Records masterwork, Small Years, there’s that comfortable easing-in, that Oh, you again sigh of a great traditional post rock album. Nothing ground-breaking, nothing envelope-pushing, nothing even new, really…just solidly awesome, beautiful, compelling music.
Why post-rock is held to a harsher standard for not advancing its tropes than, say, garage rock or chillwave is beyond my comprehension. The witty, ironic hipster set’s loathing for such heart-on-sleeve sentimentality might have something to do with it, but really, those guys can go weep silently into their PBRs at the next Dirty Projectors show for all of me. I’ll take my bombastic, over-the-top, haunting, thrilling post-rock dirges over coy and self-aware irony any day, and this song touches all the right buttons; swelling layers of swarming, colorful guitar blurs, a wailing, plaintive violin, gently rolling martial drums…enter denouement, crushing noise, redemption. The usual. The song’s simplicity is deceptive; this is an epic work that shifts subtly and expands over its twenty-six necessary minutes, and satisfies on all cylinders. Why criticize the formula when the formula can be this damned good? As the piece grows progressively darker and noisier, the catharsis only triumphs.
“Half Way” is a ghostly little interlude, the ideal comedown to the massive tidal swell of what came before. Stirring little piano snippets over a bed of noise segue into the aptly-named “Gorgeous One”, another violin-led wander through heartbroken topographies that brings to mind Early Day Miners, Balmorhea and even Dirty Three before its eventual, blissfully inevitable climb skyward. Fact of the matter is, sometimes there’s great pleasure in the expectation of the usual crescendos in post rock.
The final piece, “To Die For”, is slightly mathier, with brisk drumming and American Football clean guitars rushing in tandem between the giant swells of noise. The album ends in a whisper, disintegrating into a half-life of ash and meltdown, resigned, sated. The thing about indie rock is that the Dirty Projectors can’t make a trip to the local Kroger feel like battling a horde of Vikings for control of the earth.
“Post rock is boring.” Shut up. “Post rock is predictable.” Shut up again. “All post rock is the same.” Meet a fist. Enough. When post-rock is this good, all the self-serious dialogue and nose-in-the-air judgment doesn’t matter. This album destroys. (Zachary Corsa)