Album Review: The Books – The Way Out

July 22, 2010

Concept: The hipster demigods root their fourth LP in samples of New Age hypnotherapy tapes.

Sound: The Books’ completely distinct sound has its share of great results. Exhibit A, their masterpiece Tokyo. With The Way Out, they move even further from their original sound in the same way they did on the last album — more of vocalist Nick Zammuto, more electric distortion. This is easily their loudest album, which isn’t saying much, but it’s thus the easiest to keep your attention on, for what it’s worth. Of their new sound, I Am Who I Am and The Story Of Hip Hop stand out. There are a few remnants of their more familiar sound with its shades of folk and classical, I Didn’t Know That and Beautiful People being the most accomplished. While some people complain that Zammuto’s voice is too tepid, the biggest obstacle for The Books is a consequence of its essential method of constantly gathering the most obscure material possible for its sound. The sample-heavy tracks are expertly coordinated from moment to moment, but are they actually organized? What are we supposed to hold onto or take from these trains of non-sequitur after non-sequitur? Plenty of people would argue there is a difference between music and a gag reel. While people can become accustomed to just about anything, there remains a point where form begins to detract from function, and The Books spend a lot of their time teetering on that point.

Lyrics: Boldly expanding the boundaries of nonsensicality by reassembling already bizarre therepeutic scam jargon. Have a taste of the final track, Group Autogenics II: “…tuning in now to the feet. You might try lifting them up towards the ears, and when you feel comfortable with it, allowing your eyes to close gently, in your mind’s eye. Your being merges with the garbage, becomes one with it, so that all your energies in this moment are held in awareness by the smells, and remembering that there is no one right way to doing the dishes. And let go completely of the question of time. When this happens, as an experiment, see if you can float on a rubber raft into a big pot of boredom, letting it all cook in your mind’s eye, where it cooks all by itself, stirring it, perhaps, every once and a while. Is that ok with you?/… /You are becoming, beyond any shadow of a doubt, Blue Rose. Blue Rose!”
Well, is that ok with you? How important is uniqueness to your sensibilities? Do you mind it driving you nuts? Maybe that’s The Books’ point. Maybe.

Quick And Dirty: Still sounds like nothing else by sounding like as much else, musical or not, as conceivably possible. If an individual style is your only standard, kneel before your idol. If you have any other expectations, there’s no guarantee whether The Books will satisfy. (♦♦♦½)

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