There’s precious little monstrous or robotic about Monsters Build Mean Robots. Considering they pinched their name from a A Silver Mt Zion lyric it’s not entirely surprising that they explore post-rock hued territories. It wasn’t always this way however. The band started out as a side project for members of Court Of Hidden Faces and Days Of Lorca, and as a duo they explored the possibilities of electronica and loops. Now with an expanded line up their sound has developed into something quite special.
Although the five songs on this succinct album owe a considerable debt to several post-rock bands, there is a significant pop-element to be found throughout. Where the archetype for much post-rock is to burn slowly for extended periods of time – quite often pushing at the limits of self-indulgence – WeShouldHaveDestroyed… often cuts to the chase and establishes key melodies and hooks quickly. Not that WeShouldHaveDestroyed… is shallow or throwaway, but clearly this is a band quite happy to trim the fat away and leave effective songs that are quick to worm their way into the pleasure centres.
Lament 77 (We Will Follow) may well fade in gently, but wastes little time in developing into a strangely ethereal gung-ho romp. A driving bass-line leads the charge behind a lilting vocal from Pete Lambrou before spears of ice-laden guitars pierce the calm and lead the band into an effortless crescendo. This back and forth between relative calm and sudden explosions (the best of which is the siren-like interjection of a choir at the mid-point) continues until the song collapses in a heap at the close. The influence of Sigur Rós and in particular the solo work of Jónsi is undeniable but to be able to make music as transcendental as those particular Icelandic post-rockers is no bad thing at all.
Psalm 57 (Or) All That Gold Did Not Help Your Soul steps away from what most would define as post-rock and edges towards atmospheric-hymnal pop. Certainly there are those maudlin guitars and sorrowful strings, those sure-fire signifiers of post-rock, but it’s the deployment of the choir that lifts the tone (like skinny fists) towards the spiritual.
Musically, Song For The Generals could have been lifted wholesale from iLiKETRAiNS, but for the much higher vocal tones of Lambrou. Rather than opt for the funereal groan of David Martin, he adopts a narcoleptic Thom Yorke impression, something that serves neither the song nor Lambrou himself, he’s a far better vocalist than this song suggests.
The Witches And The Liars is another slow burner, with sombre guitar patterns slowly playing out while Lambrou emotes over the sparse and slightly obvious musical backing. When the band finally kicks into life, it feels by the book. Even the pounding drums that punctuate the crescendos like artillery shells fail to detonate. Fortunately the 9 minute A Reverie For The Riots redresses the balance somewhat. The longest song on the album by some distance, it allows the band to explore their atmospherics more fully. Once again it’s Lambrou’s vocals that initially catch the attention, as his heartfelt lament carries a sizeable emotional punch. The band too are on fine form as they continually build the intensity within the song, layering up constantly as they charge towards a breaking point that never seems to come. If it were written with the trials and tribulations of sporting endeavour in mind, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
WeShouldHaveDestroyedOurGenerals is a finely tuned album that finds the pop sensibility in the heart of post-rock. Monsters Build Mean Robots don’t hit the mark every time, but when they do; they do so with style and emotional weight.