Cymbals Eat Guitars arrive in Leeds on the backend of their European tour, following the re-release of their deeply sophisticated debut, Why There Are Mountains, in late 2009 on Sister’s Den Records. Tonight they are supported by This Many Boyfriends, the Leeds-based quintet, who open the night by delivering a brief bout of pop-songs designed to kick the unarmed listener in the proverbial balls. Lead singer, Richard ‘Boyfriend’ showcases the beautiful tone of the Yorkshire accent on songs such as ‘I Should Be A Communist’ and is accompanied perfectly with the warming harmonies of fellow ‘Boyfriends’. The use of the stand-up drummer, Lauren, is visibly and sonically effective, as the band faces the audience with the linear directness of a marching band and with the floor toms’ pounding never retracting from the overall sound quality. What’s most charming about TMB, however, is their genuine delight in playing live, especially at a venue “I used to come to all the time when I was 15”, admits Richard. “18.” corrects Adam, quickly. A local band for Leeds to be proud of, surely, and hopefully one we’ll see more of.
Now, to simply describe CEG’s set and each memorable moment of the night would be a futile and ultimately impossible task – there is neither enough time nor space. Instead, I am left to attempt to articulate how it affected me so intensely.
As humans, we are brought up to foster our young, to cast a caring eye over that which we bring into the world. Nature, then, may explain my insatiable thirst to see CEG ‘succeed’, whatever that may mean. Falling in love with an established band is something truly brilliant; to find out they have a back catalogue for you to delve into and pages upon pages of history to read up on. Even better for me, though, is watching a band grow, following them on whichever route they wish to pursue, because there’s that slight responsibility on you as a listener – your choice to support the band by buying their records and going to their shows may ultimately result in their continuation as a group of musicians. Worrying it is then, when you consider the fact that Cymbals Eat Guitars are still, as of yet, unsigned in America. Being a band so full of potential that it often feels as if the music is on the verge of caving in on itself, you’d think that the first venture-savvy label would snatch them up instantly. Yet, therein may lie the problem – how exactly does a label harness such fresh talent? Maybe it’s better for them to remain independent and to find their own way in the music world? As long as they can afford to put out albums and tour across internationally, I see little of a problem, at least for me, anyway.
Seeing Cymbals Eat Guitars now, I realize how far a band can come in under a year. Although sadly still playing to under-capacity crowds and receiving the occasional bad reception (ahem Liverpool ahem), CEG now deliver a more confident, polished and altogether poised performance than last year’s. Front man, and all around gent, Joseph D’Agostino acts as the focal point for the Staten Island quartet, with the lively timbre of his voice swallowing the audience unapologetically. As he breaks into guitar solos, his face distorts into that of a snake’s, his tongue forking out from his mouth, beads of sweat shooting from his forehead. This is paired faultlessly with the drumming of Matt Miller, which has become even more strikingly inventive – thrashing and crashing with the astuteness of a musician twice his age. Collectively, the whole band seems to have evolved tremendously within such a short period of time, which, considering how remarkable they were before is outstanding.
Although it’s wished upon, unfortunately it’s not often that you attend a gig in which you sense that something seminal has taken place, something ultimately shaping to the musical world, but that’s just the kind of band Cymbals Eat Guitars are. This was, without a doubt, one of the most emotionally taxing gigs that I have ever been to. My body was, and continues to be, a cocktail of emotions. Even writing about it now, four days on, the remnants of my excitement are still visible; my hands tremble, my grin still beams – this was something very special. And now I’m left with that indebted feeling you occasionally get; when a band has given so much to a performance and/or record that you feel like for the rest of their career you must support them, you must pre-order their following albums, you must spread their name at any given opportunity, you must stand in the front row and lose yourself in the music.
I feel a great gravity towards this band and wish only that more people find themselves being drawn into their richly layered and dynamically constructed music as I do. Looking back, it’s odd to think that CEG didn’t exist in my life a couple of years ago. Like with a lot of my favourite bands, the attachment I’ve formed with them is so strong that the past begins to seem redundant without their presence – who’d want to live a life without ‘Wind Phoenix’?! The discovery of Cymbals Eat Guitars is probably the closest I’ll ever come to an epiphany.
Now, I implore you to go and buy their album and let it consume you whole. If you see that CEG are playing near you, go see them. If they’re not playing near you, move.