In 2005, Circa Survive set themselves apart from the myriad of post-hardcore/experimental bands that saw their heyday in the heart of the 00s with their uniquely spacey and tastefully disjointed debut album, Jurturna. But Circa's latest release, Blue Sky Noise, does nothing to set this once scene-worshipped band apart from the scores of others from the aforementioned myriad that have scraped the bottom of the pseudo-experimental genre so thin that they can't help but fall through into blank space.
All that verbiage means is this: the world has too much delay pedal-driven fake prog-rock for one of the scene's (I hate to use that term twice in one review) most near-and-dear to digress to a step above bands like Saosin, the band that lead vocalist Anthony Green got bored with and left before forming Circa Survive.
Blue Sky Noise sees a Circa that has forgotten its haphazard, airy roots and clung onto a more dense and anthemic rock-oriented style that is anything but flattering to Green's abrasively high-pitched shriek. On lead single "Get Out," Green sounds as if he's being viciously and mercilessly attacked by the hideously aggressive and gigantic dinosaurs the heavily distorted power chords seem to try to create (it makes sense, trust me...). On other tracks, like the emotionless "Spirit of the Stairwell," Green's voice goes a bit lower than it's used to and does its best to bury itself under the bland acoustic chords and shuffley rhythm that has become an all-too-frequent staple of Green-penned songs.
To its credit, Blue Sky Noise does what it intends to do on most of its twelve tracks, like the epic and far-reaching "I Felt Free." The colorful mushroom cloud of a song blooms higher and higher with each chorus, culminating in a full eclipse as Green sings "I felt free because of the things you told me" at the top of his helium-filled lungs. And "Imaginary Enemy" and "Through the Desert Alone" are top-notch modern rock radio hits that should appeal especially to high school freshman who want to seem different from the rest of their class that only listens to new Green Day and thinks Death Cab For Cutie just started last year when Twilight came out.
But therein lies the problem: Circa Survive is not a modern rock radio band, and their massive sound used to come from the frantic and random arrangement of ambient noise, never from an outright and artificial attempt to create just that with power chords. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a single power chord on Juturna. Their second release, On Letting Go, was a bit misguided but still full of decent ideas and noble intentions. But the song structures on Blue Sky Noise seem too carefully considered and predictable to look good on Circa.
Maybe I'm just old; maybe I'm too wrapped up in what I've been listening to since after I turned was 16 that I've forgotten how to appreciate pulsing guitar chugs superimposed on top of reverby, cutting guitar leads and played-out 3/4 rhythms. Or maybe something as uncalculated, crudely beautiful and perfectly timed as Juturna only happens once in a band's career.