Review: The Ex-Bombers: The Tightwire

The Ex-Bombers - The Tightwire

-Greg’s Take-

I am a BIG fan of the vinyl medium. Not in the elitist sense of “oh you don’t know how good it could sound until you hear it on vinyl,” because trust me, Anne Murray on vinyl is still Anne Murray; but I love it in the sense of involvement. If you place the needle down and hear the music take shape while holding the sleeve in hand, there is little that can rival that experience.

It is precisely this experience that takes Charleston, Illinois’, by way of Columbia, Missouri, duo The Ex-Bombers from “good” to having the ability to rattle your inner audiophile tower on the very foundation of which it stands.

I never, in a million years, thought I would be volunteering to hold the rally flag at the front of the pack for a sound teetering on “Dirtbag Spy Jazz” and “Beatnik Punk.” But I’ll be damned if there have ever been two musicians that have so easily tapped into that passion more than Keri Cousins and Scott Walus.

Like a modern speakeasy, The Tightwire comes through the spinning wax like a slam poetry session focused on today’s inability to cope with patience and hard work. The back of the record explains that it is “a hand-written love letter in a world of instant gratifications…Though jaded by the madness of bureaucracy, we can take pleasure in our frustration.” Coupled with the simple, yet impactful raw sound the tale-in-a-record comes to life in the most addicting way.

The record is most definitely best heard in one continuous sit-down and it draws you to that effortlessly. The smoky, dimly lit, old-jazz-bar-turned-underground-coffee-shop vibe left me clinging to the intellectually fueled statements that never breached into rant. The songs as a whole carry an immense presence, drawing upon inspirations from Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth and the like; there is an unwavering simplicity which conveys the album to the purpose, not simply some over-digitalized sound. In short, it is a remarkable find in today’s world.

Perhaps there is a sort of elitist aura associated with The Ex-Bombers’s record The Tightwire in the sense that what was once common sense is no longer, but it can be found here. It is a diamond in the rough, found when the rough overwhelmed what was once a world of diamonds. It is vividly honest and undeniably memorable. If The Tightwire had not actually released in 2012, this would be a shoe-in for my top 10 list of 2013.

But remember, it can only be found on vinyl via Cavetone Records, here.

4 thoughts on “Review: The Ex-Bombers: The Tightwire

  1. some of these claims are pretty vague. can you possibly touch on some of these “intellectually fueled statements” and why you deem them so? what kind of themes or formal elements do they draw from the velvet underground and sonic youth?

    • Thanks for the comment. When discussing the style of The Ex-Bombers I believe it is very important to find one’s own meaning in their sound; much in the same vein of Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth. As with these two pioneering sounds, and I’ll admit that I have never been big on the Velvet Underground’s sound, “The Tightwire” expands with a sense of experimentation without the falsities of electronic touchup. The raw, driving force behind the leading track “I Can’t Do Anything,” with the purposefully faint melody in the background to the rolling bass line constructed around a jazzy frame, capture this perfectly. Additionally, recording on open reel and releasing it only on vinyl only further contributed to the sense of creativity.

      The intellectually fueled statements made by the duo are as much spoken as they are unspoken. Beyond just the production value, lyrically there is a sense of slightly cynical style formed around common sense which feeds not only the attractiveness, but the sentiment. For example, “Le Sux,” which holds references to French and Judi Dench. Who does that? Also, drawing on the vintage detective storytelling line of thought turns the album from simply a collection of songs to much more of a story. Track after track it becomes very apparent that there is more to the Ex-Bombers than meets the eye. Their obvious dissatisfaction for the condition of modern music led to a sound drawn from pieces of yesteryear, but no one specific person. This worked incredibly well because it did not go the way we’ve seen all too often; the jaded, bitter route which creates numbing repetition.

      But this, again, is just what it meant to me.

      • Thanks for the response! If you’re up to it, i’d like to open this discussion to larger issues concerning the role of art by focusing on some of the claims you made in your reply.
        * You say, “When discussing the style of The Ex-Bombers I believe it is very important to find one’s own meaning in their sound; much in the same vein of Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth. ”
        Why do you believe we must find our own meaning in their sound? Why is such a response particular to this band and bands like them, such as VU and SY? Is it because their lyrics are too often obscure and inaccessible in an objective sense? Thus, we must “make up” our own meanings, fill in the space with our own feelings that long for expression? What bands should we treat differently?
        * “The intellectually fueled statements made by the duo are as much spoken as they are unspoken. Beyond just the production value, lyrically there is a sense of slightly cynical style formed around common sense which feeds not only the attractiveness, but the sentiment. For example, “Le Sux,” which holds references to French and Judi Dench. Who does that?”
        What kind of statements are these references to a language and an actress making exactly? Why am I supposed to be attracted to these cynical, commonsensical lyrics? Again, you don’t give examples and I’m left wondering what life such lyrics could hold.
        * Why does releasing a record only on vinyl contribute to the “sense of creativity?” I think that making a virtue out of one means of exposure, and these claims to the purity of such means misses the point. Do not genuine artists strive to reach as wide an audience as possible? Immersing yourself in the enormous implications of such new technology doesn’t necessarily mean compromising your artistic values.
        * The No Wave milieu, which bands like Sonic Youth were immersed in, were reacting to the overproduced recordings of the music industry. As proper a reaction as that may be, some No Wave bands made intentionally “bad” sounding music. One may wish to side with their reasons, but the finished product is another matter.
        Some of the best works of Sonic Youth show exciting, experimental, and innovative musical compositions. Most of their work, however, shows a retreat into self-indulgence. There is no urgency in their content, and in the end, the whole never seems to animate.
        I am still not sure what it is about these bands that you claim Th Ex-Bombers inherits.
        In conclusion, the best art, in my humble opinion, gets at fundamental themes that human beings share throughout society. The forms change, but there are universal aspects of the human condition that permeate all great works of art. We tend to champion the works that are most faithful to this condition. I look to art to make sense of one world, not retreat into my own. These are my thoughts. I appreciate you taking time to answer my previous question.
        Long live discourse!