The Veils | Time Stays, We Go | Rating: 9.5/11 |
The Veils are one of those chronically underrated bands who is simultaneously and almost universally praised for what they do and how well they do it despite their frequent line up changeover rate (it’s not exactly the best outfit for long-term job security). Fronted and anchored by the charismatic Finn Andrews (and his preacher’s hat), Andrews may be the archetype of a tempest in a teapot. An exemplar of rich, curious thoughts and emotions agitating within a concentrated space secured by a delicate something capable of whipping free without warning. It doesn’t always occur but the burgeoning possibility is an innate characteristic that makes Time Stays, We Go quite an elemental record capable of holding you captive with it’s moments of sheer and unadulterated, shadowy beauty as well as turning you on.
Having shunned a major label in favor of releasing Time Stays, We Gounder their own steam, album number four (four years after its predecessor, Sun Gangs) finds the London-by-way-of-New Zealand quintet harnessing chaos, tenderness even glances of death (as well as two separate and somewhat glib references to cancer) with a distinct and sometimes dusty air of Americana along with Andrews’ finely tuned flair for imparting lyricism that can be seen as well as felt. We’ll just chalk that skill up to the painter in him as opener “Through The Deep Dark Woods” does paint a hot, albeit ill-fated love affair as a kinetic and dangerous force, and that “this love ain’t like the rest” may not be such a good thing. It’s also your first clue as to how in step and locked in his band mates are at bringing ample tension and release to the music designed by Andrews’ brilliantly troubled brain.
One area where The Veils have always excelled is tapping into the many moody facets of Andrews’ primary instrument: that voice known for morphing from heart-aching to frenzied and back again. Between the mantra “Love, gather your rosebuds while you may” and the backbone of guitar, Andrews (due to this record’s intimate moments, at this point I just want to call him Finn) gently weaves himself into the well-timed and fluid shuffle of “Train With No Name” as his delivery becomes progressively more corrosive yet comfortably so. Like time, all things are moving, changing yet Andrews and company aim to lessen the fear of the impermanence of it all (yes, life). It’s not until hauling through the desert of “Dancing With The Tornado” that shit gets frightening and disturbingly manic in depicting the vision of his lady wild child and his tolerance threshold for her nighttime activities. Effectively making it the one song that Veils fans may – despite any risks – crave to see performed live.
Working under the assumption that when The Veils entered the studio they did so with the expectation of making the best record of their career, Time Stays, We Go may be The Veils most satisfying output yet (or at least on par with Sun Gangs) and, with their fantastic and dramatic history, that’s saying a lot: it’s a beauty. Conveyance of delicacy and hope without diluting their typical visceral piss and dark fire is a tricky walk. One step too far left and we’re in emo territory; to the right and it’s annoying, angry angst where we have to start questioning the size of ‘it.’ By the end of the album’s 40 minutes you feel as if you’ve trekked through some sort of beautiful wilderness as wide territory has been covered from ethereally romantic (“Sign of Your Love”) to 50s retro and sexually anguished (“Candy Apple Red”) to determining that, indeed, “it’s worth it if I get hurt, just for another night on this earth” (“Another Night On Earth”). It’s a slightly slanted optimism but optimism nonetheless and alleviates the solitude and paranoia of the preceding track, “Birds.” Sounding like the last train (with or without a name) leaving the station heading towards the sunset, “Out From the Valley & Into the Stars” and its accompanying horns gently lead you there. With that in mind, all aboard because, as H. L. Mencken said, time stays, we go.
NOTE: Much has been made of the fact that such a venerable producer as Bill Price (Jesus & the Mary Chain, the Clash) came out of retirement in order to mix this album and Adam Greenspan (Arcade Fire, Divine Fits) co-produced so let’s give those facts their proper due. If, in any way, you’re emotionally (or even physically) moved by crystalline levels of clarity and discernable layers of quality, warm sound, this album may trigger a Pavlov-ic reaction in you. You’ve been warned.