Oh hell. There are some times your role sucks and this is one of mine. The problem comes when you get an album to review from a respected record company, with the PR sheet waxing lyrical and philosophical and great endorsements from the likes of Kristoffer Rygg of Ulver and you kind of sit there wanting to shout “but the emperor is wearing no clothes!”
Just so there are no misunderstandings: Messenger at perfectly fine musicians and I dare say to some rather good songwriters and Illusory Blues has been produced with a fine light touch hand. So no problems with the standard of presentation. None. This is down to taste and a difference of views. From the first play through when opening song ‘The Return’ crept on in with one of those acoustic Katatonia-esque regretful melodies but without the gut wrenching emotional attack I was mildly concerned but still optimistic. By the time I’d got through my third and fourth listen to the album I was genuinely beginning to see why the words in the PR about ‘organic richness’ and ‘unafraid ‘ were bothering me.
With the occasional interruption of a bit of hard rock attack, this is predominantly firmly in that post rock realm where dreamy landscapes and folk tinged guitar melodies drift in to soft semi-psychedelic realms. A touch of prog, a landscape of jazzy, hazy introspective post-rock stretching as far as the eye can see. A fiddle here. A flute there. All beautifully played and laid out in a flower power Beatles meets ballad Muse world.
But nothing touches me. Nothing enthrals me, with the mild exception of parts of ‘Midnight’. I listen to De Arma and Katatonia and Weh and bands across the quiet spectrum, I listen to a variety of styles in numerous genres but here it’s all smoke and mirrors for me and not the bold and original experience promised.
For once it’s not just that I don’t get it, but I appear to be hearing something totally different to everyone else. They hear bold, innovative, deep, rich folds and waves but I am standing in a landscape that is familiar and flat and is not where I either live or travel. Sometimes being in a crowd is the loneliest of places when you are out of step. I truly get the highly accomplished playing, the care and attention of the arrangements and also the emotional investment of the band is clearly huge and genuine. I respect all that. If post-rock is your thing, step on through. Messenger are waiting with a blend of those I mentioned above and I’m sure you will have a lot to talk about and revel in. I just feel uninvolved and isolated by it, like I’m passing a cafe-bar on a cold afternoon, Messenger are playing in the warmth to an appreciative, nodding, thoughtful crowd and I’m just the shadow pausing before plodding on down the road. Not invited and not understanding the pull of the sounds from inside.
It just fails to attract me to such an extent that I can regretfully conclude that the awful but true old cliche of “it just isn’t my thing.. ” applies. Hopefully I have offered enough information for you to make your own choice and I also hope that you have better luck with this, but I’ve had my face pressed against the window for too long already and everyone is looking at me.