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Do Make Say Think - Other Truths

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Artist: Do Make Say Think

Album: Other Truths

Label: Constellation

Review date: Oct. 20, 2009

Do Make Say Think have been behaving like post-rock elder statesmen for a long time. Since before they deserved to, surely, but that’s not the point: in their line of work, that’s the right attitude to have. Very few things are easier to play than adequate post-rock, which is why so damn many bands do it. DMST know the codes — the approximate length of an “epic,” the appropriate use of a horn section, the ideal places to go spookily quiet for a second — but they don’t spend much energy on obeying or disobeying them. They buck convention when it suits them, not as provocation. They go about their business simply, with ambivalence toward the formula but evident love for the form.

How this attitude makes them better than your garden-variety po-ro act on a technical level is tough to account for. Their instrumentation is a little richer than most bands’, their genre borders a little more porous — the drums skitter around like jazz hands, the guitars bleat psychedelically in the loud parts and tiptoe folkily in the quiet, the bass is a consistent sinister delight — but the songs themselves are traditional layered instrumentals, patiently and precisely orchestrated. Maybe it’s the feeling that there’s an attitude at all, however apolitical, that lends the music an uncommon warmth, puts you in touch with the people behind it.

Which is all well and good until you hit a snag, but just as it’s hard to articulate what makes the Toronto collective exemplary in their field, it’s hard to pinpoint what about Other Truths fails to make contact. On paper, it looks just as diverse and methodical as its five predecessors, yet “Make” and “Say” are long, unmemorable songs with agreeable passages and “Think” is ponderous; “Do” is a rousing and suspenseful workout that still packs less ambition into twelve minutes than the band has historically into four.

The big formal difference is the album’s insistence on continuity — represented by dividing into four songs what would pass for 10 on an Arts & Crafts release — which urges engagement with each long suite as a structure unto itself. The suites are sound, though, even economical, winding their way through slow-building themes to climaxes and codas that are just where they should be. Not even “Think” goes on any longer than it earns the right to. Like everything else, the length satisfies the previously agreed-upon rules of the genre.

The disappointment, then, is simply that DMST haven’t made their own this time, as a result of which Other Truths sounds like adequate post-rock, no more or less. It delivers all the literal elements that make the band distinctive, the technical and procedural elements, and too few of the ineffable, organic, casually subversive ones. The ride is fun enough, better than average for the masses, but for this band it’s an off-day: once it’s over, you don’t even think to wonder why it was fun.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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