‘rolled together with a burning paper heart’

The Antlers – Burst Apart
(Frenchkiss, 2011)

Forgive me for saying it took some time to come around to this album, but you have to admit Burst Apart had some pretty big shoes to fill.  Peter Silberman‘s record of losing a loved one at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is arguably one of the most heartfelt displays of anguish ever recorded for public consumption.  You almost have to believe he wouldn’t have allowed those thoughts or those emotions to have surfaced and become immortalized if he had any idea of how successful it would be.  But that is the beauty of that album, it is as real and raw as you can get.  At festivals, around the country and the world, when thousands sing along ‘Sylllllliva’, does it feel like a tribute or are each of these voices a sharp reminder of what has been lost?  Is this closure?  Or are the fresh wounds torn open by the faceless masses in dirty clubs night after night after night?

However Peter is feeling about the events that inspired Hospice, he now can find solace in the fact that he has something else to sing about…fun stuff like drinking too much, making mistakes, hollow sex, failed relationships and anxiety.  Hell yeah!  Let’s go grab a beer, The Antlers are up next!  They’re gonna rock it!  I love that one about debilitating paranoia!

Technically, Burst Apart is the 4th full length by The Antlers, but I would consider it their sophomore release.  Uprooted and In the Attic of the Universe are both basement projects that are not worth much more than to act as records of how the band has evolved.   Hospice came to life in that same basement, but it was given room to breath.  Hospice started life an account of Peter‘s pain, but the songs were mutated into something bigger in the hands of Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci.  The way these song were manipulated live make Hospice a group effort, but it wasn’t until Burst Apart that Peter really let go of control.  With Burst Apart, Peter and his Antlers became The Antlers.

The album opens strong with I Don’t Want Love.  A light drum beat, bass line, recognizably The Antlers.  I find myself rocking back and forth at my desk, picturing the Class of ’11 holding each other close at prom; thinking they are in love and it will last forever.  But then I realize this isn’t that type of song.  This is a song for those of us who are more realistic about where that night is going to go. ‘we wake up with pounding heads, bruised down below, I should have built better walls, or slept in my clothes‘.  Burst Apart is not a concept album but there is a theme flowing through its veins, as is seen by French Exit, which could be the following act for the couple of the opening track. ‘I’m not a puppy you’ll take home, don’t bother trying to fix my heart’.

From there the album goes another direction, a direction I am still not sold on. Parentheses has Peter taking his voice to heights that resemble Wild Beasts more than The Antlers. And that music?  It sounds like something Radiohead threw away.  Not a fan.  No Window is slightly better.  A sweeping electronic track breaks to introduce Peter at his most seductive.  And if it weren’t for his voice going back to the Beasts (and those stoney oooooo’s) in the middle, I’d probably really like this track.  This weird interlude ends with the repetitive Rolled Together.  This track is ‘best heard stoned with friends‘ according to Peter and although I have yet to hear it in that state, I do enjoy the song.  I just think  it could have been a couple minutes shorter.

Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out is the first song I heard before this album came out and it’s still the track I can relate to the most.  It’s a song about late night mistakes involving alcohol.  Just using basic math skills based on age, I think I have probably had many more of these nights than all The Antlers put together, but they have a way of summing it up that I will never possess.

One bad night I’ll hold the glass until the glass can hold me down
And one bad night I’ll spill and spill until my feet begin to drown
And one bad night I’ll hear you calling me to help you not pass out

One dumb night I’ll make a point to take an old verboten route
One dumb night I’ll take you out to the bar we both blacked out
One dumb night two bad decisions don’t divide to cancel out

Genius.

Following that stand-out track with an unnecessary instrumental downer?  Not so genius.

We segue into a dreamy haze with Hounds, a moving slow jam complete with saxophone before Corsicana, another of my favorites on the album. I can’t help but think we are back with the couple from the beginning.  They have matured a little and come to the conclusion that their dreams are taking them different directions.  This is goodbye, but neither wants to let go.  ‘we should hold our breath with mouths together now‘  Growing up is hard, saying goodbye is even harder.  But for this band from Brooklyn, growing up sounds great!  Maturity fits them well.

The albums ends with it’s strongest offering.  Peter has admitted this is a song of reconciliation; making peace with the events on Hospice.  That explains why Putting The Dog To Sleep sounds so much like the previous album.  Not really about putting the family pet down, this song is about fighting the concept that everyone dies alone.  It’s about making promises and not letting go until the end.

So does this mean all those feelings are out?  Is Peter a happy, balanced individual?  I hope for his sake he is, but I always hope he keeps a little of that pain bottled for the next release, because no one wants an Antlers dance album!

The AntlersEvery Night My Teeth Are Falling Out