After a promising star to its career, Beware of Safety has flown under the radar the past few years. Will Lotusville correct the course?
In a recent interview with Armand, Beware of Safety mentions the importance of artists considering their medium when creating and releasing music. This is in the context of the rise of Internet services like Pandora and Spotify, in which users can stumble upon a new artist and judge the entirety of his work based on a single track. The message is clear: “every track matters,” but I wonder how applicable this specific example is to the genre of post-rock/instrumental rock. More appropriate to BoS is likely the resurgence of vinyl as the chosen format for fans of independent music; Lotusville, the band’s third album, is tailored made to be spun on wax.
To say that Beware of Safety has made a good album would certainly be notable, but not necessarily unexpected; dogs and Leaves/Scars are both good albums. There’s no doubt that this band can construct a polished product from start to finish, but what the first two albums were short on was the addictive and catchy tracks that marked BoS’ debut EP, It is Curtains. Still a playbook in how to break into the post-rock scene, It is Curtains demonstrates the band’s technical chops, slick songwriting, and wide array of influences that we would get to know in more depth in the years to come, but it also had several tracks that are hard to put down. “To the Roof…” is now a classic of the genre, “O’Canda” remains a personal favorite of mine, and “Kaura” and “Weak Wrists” never fail to impress. Although dogs and L/S certainly have their highlights, over the years I’ve found that they don’t have enough distinctive moments power through the constant stream of post-rock to make a memorable statement in ways that bands such as Caspian, Grails, Samuel Jackson Five, etc. have so convincingly done. In fact, one could argue this is what separates a great band from one that is just merely good.
Lotusville, I’m happy to say, does fill the bill with several tracks that dig their hooks in deep and don’t let go. The double LP comes into play here to divide the album into four vignettes, the general theme being that each side gets a killer tune, one to contrast, and an interlude of sorts. The album starts with the quiet twinkling of “First Sleep,” which leads into the hard-hitting “Wash Ashore in Pieces.” Beware of Safety has often walked the line between post-rock and post-metal over the past two albums, oftentimes erring on the side of post-rock, but its harder numbers have tended to not be its best and sometimes slip into a void I like to call “instrumental alt rock.” “Wash Ashore…” takes a few cues from Caspian in firmly aligning itself as a high-energy post-rock track, avoiding many of the cliches of both genres and delivering a satisfyingly rough edge with a softer undertone (courtesy of some acoustic guitar and vibraphone). But then we get to “Bullet,” which is certainly one of the better things to ever come out of the BoS camp. The playful tune grinds along with a Battles-esque repetition, slowly building momentum to a furious psychedelic-inspired jam with acoustic outro (the acoustic guitar is used liberally on Lotusville to great effect). It’s an eight minute track, but I’m always fooled in thinking that only half the time has passed.
Side B is the hardest rocking side, as “Trigger Finger,” “Iron Ribs,” and “Stare Down Orion” all hit with a good amount of force. The first two start slow and quiet before turning up the volume, and “Stare Down Orion” swings for the fences from the very beginning. Here, BoS vary the pattern by merging the contrasting elements into the tracks themselves, else fall prey to an overly formulaic musical experience. Things settle down on Side C, in which “Icarus” shows the band at its most contemplative and ambient. “To Be Curious is Dangerous Enough” is another excellent track that brings back the acoustic element and sees it merge into a swelling post-rock climax. It’s about two and a half minutes of beauty bolted on three minutes of power, and for whatever reason I’m reminded of a seamless melding of Six Parts Seven and Beware of Safety. Last, but not least, “The Fever” and “Second Sleep” close out the album with Beware of Safety giving the post-rock faithful their best rendition of classic post-rock since “To the Roof…” With so many bands going for the epic these days, Beware of Safety shows that it’s still second to none.
Lotusville quickly puts Beware of Safety back on the map for old fans and makes a convincing case for newcomers to post-rock. In a year where there has certainly been lots of good post-rock albums released, Lotusville stands out as one of the truly great releases – one that is important and will likely stand the test of time. The band has always had a great nose for putting together a good album, but Lotusville also has the extra elbow grease that makes it irresistible.