No. 5 Long Player
By: Eric G.
While I respect bands that make music only to please themselves, I have to question their motives when releasing products to the public that have little entertaining value. Of course, The Letter E probably thinks this record is very entertaining, but listening to people show off rarely is. Everybody knows the guys in The Letter E can play. With members of June of 44, Blue Man Group, Rex, and blah, blah, blah, The Letter E has quite the post-rock pedigree. And the band, consequently, writes laborious instrumental songs that are musically impressive but emotionally vacuous.
The chiming, interweaving guitars are terribly complex and delicately orchestrated while the percussion is subtle and dynamic, but it feels like a lot of icing without much cake. No. 5 Long Player will surely impress those guitar geeks that sit and listen to records with their friends just to high-five each other when they recognize a showy chord progression or a difficult arpeggio. The rest of us, however, will sit blue in the face with boredom waiting for it all to end.
I’m somewhat amazed Bob Weston could hold his eyes open long enough to produce this record properly. The production is exquisite, though. Every instrument is crystal clear, and you can even hear the guitar players' callused fingers sliding up and down the fretboard amidst all the carefully plotted monotony. I’m sure Weston got paid well, though, or was at least given complimentary tickets to see the Blue Man Group.
Intricate, instrumental post rock is much maligned even without this album adding fuel to the fire. The trail always leads back to Slint's Spiderland, but blaming Slint is like blaming Nirvana for Silverchair- it’s hopeless. The carbon paper thins with every copy made. The Letter E is a group of astounding musicians- far more accomplished than anyone in Slint, but Slint's genius was in its simplicity, which is a lesson The Letter E could use desperately.
Guitar wizards are a dime a dozen, but great records are a bit rarer (everybody knows that Steve Vai can play guitar, but who wants to listen to his records?). While I can applaud The Letter E's collective musical prowess, I sincerely hope each member starts listening to some rhythm and blues very soon because No. 5 Long Player could use a little soul.