With Jurassic World all the rage this summer, it seems like a good time to be named plesiosaur~, even with the tilde. When last we encountered Tonesucker’s Steve Elsey, he was in mourning; this time, he’s stretching his wings and flying to the sun. As Icarus learned, this is not necessarily the safest summer activity; but as poets have written, it’s one of the noblest. Couple this with a sideways Stevie Smith reference (“Falling (not flying”), and one has all the ingredients for a memorable Greek tragedy.
Not that one knows this from the start. In the opening track (“Boy, Second Class”, referring to a teenager’s entry into the Royal Navy), expectations build with the rising, swirling guitars, an astonishing eight minutes and thirty-nine seconds before the first tonal burst. Even when the drums enter, the listener realizes that Elsey has simply jumped from one build to the next, a Jacob’s Ladder of builds, on his way to an uncertain future. Three minutes later, the first explosions appear off the starboard side. Ladies and gentlemen, this is post-rock.
This beast is going to be hard to top, but a plesiosaur is pretty strong, so one should never count it out. In “Ten Seconds” (which is ironically ten minutes long), a boy soprano exits the ship and begins to sing. Again the build is extended (no drums for four minutes), but the payoff is huge. The last 4:25 is almost a different track, loud, clear and full, offering the possibility that Elsey might actually have a metal-tinged radio single. Conceptual kings Queensrÿche would be proud. The energy drops a bit with the middle track, which includes a few minutes of space capsule instructions; better to begin here at 4:57. This is a strange misstep in an otherwise engaging album: if one likes plesiosaur~, one wants to hear plesiosaur~, dispensing with the voiceover. “Falling (not flying)” is a strong recovery, and if it never quite reaches the heights of the opener, that’s okay; the ambition is what will be remembered. (Richard Allen)