The student of philosophy, whether accredited or not, is easy to spot. Typically they are noticed by their pensive way at looking at the world, but can be identified by their expansive vocabulary and thought-provoking manifestos. When the members of Senseless Beatings met, I imagine their philosophy Geiger counters went off the charts. Their second EP, We Will Walk Into the Sea, is rife with the language of the sophist and themes of the most delicate of human concepts: love.
We Will Walk Into the Sea is a concept album, but a concept album that maintains continuity. I applaud Senseless Beatings’ commitment to furthering the narrative from their debut LP, After History – if you do not know the concepts behind either album, go here. In their follow-up, the band asks (which is what philosophers do) now what? Now what do we do in this world in which history ended with the holocausts of World War II? Well, if you subscribe to the band’s philosophies, turns out we love and turn less in on our selves. Walking into the sea is the act of giving in to the religion of love.
By painting this picture of romantic religion, Senseless Beatings challenges the listener to engage in their music not just on a tonal level but an intellectual level as well. They are probably the first band I have listened to that casually throw out terms like “causa sui” and “parmenidean stasis.” In a musical landscape of “yeah baby,” pitch correction, “Fridays” and constant regression to the mean, it is refreshing to have a band that adds complex layers to their lyrics, their song titles (see: Différance) and their music.
On the surface, each of the eight tracks boasts an indie folk rock feel. Chase Brown’s guitar traverses the map from an acoustic chop in “Forgiveness,” soft pop ballad in “Little Deaths,” reggae breakdown in “The System” and spends much of the rest of the time in gentle strumming. Ian Lee’s drums are jazz-level loose and never sloppy, even tightening up for the march in “Forgiveness.” Thomas Alverson’s bass is bubbly and adds to the folk charm of the album; while Jo Garnett answers the question is there room for a flute in indie rock? The answer is an emphatic “yes, as long as you balance it out and mix it properly.” Chase Brown and Jesse Powers take on the task of telling Senseless Beating’s story with their lyrics: Brown with sonorous tenor and Powers adds a sincerity to every line she sings with her delightful vocals. I hope she is featured on future albums; Powers is a rising star and her voice complements the Senseless Beatings sound seamlessly.
Often catchy but not quite hooky, We Will Walk Into the Sea is cerebral and thought-provoking but never quite taps into the emotional core. The album feels like an examination of the concept of love without the sensation of it; the album lives in the head but not the heart. I am glad that there are bands out there like Senseless Beatings who strive to challenge us intellectually, but their follow up to After History feels more listless and lacks the punch of their earlier work. Maybe that was designed and maybe this album is a marriage of love and a gentle sound. Maybe that was their plan all along. Either way, take a listen to the brain candy that Senseless Beatings has to offer and decide for yourself.