Giant Silent World – Giant Silent World

 Giant Silent World – Giant Silent World

Giant Silent World – Giant Silent World – Album Review

The dynamic duo of Pete Gustard and Christopher Smith returns – in full album form!

I know they’ve been looking forward to getting this album out there, and the day has finally arrived.  Nearly two years since the release of their debut EP, Giant, their new, self-titled, full length album is officially out there online for ya as of today.  Always a socially/environmentally conscious pair, you’ll find references to what matters to them scattered all the way through this record, and you certainly couldn’t miss them in the opening track “LEAF2BEE.”  While they’re singing about “polycyclic hydrocarbons” and quickly reminding me that I know nothing about anything outside of music – I do have a slight interest in words, given that I use them every day…so heck yeah, a track like “LEAF2BEE” has plenty to catch my attention in that regard.  You end up learning stuff if you’re paying close attention…like, for example, these “polycyclic hydrocarbons” are “a class of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline” in the world according to Google.  In the Giant Silent World, they “infiltrate the skin and make it bleed” – so…I’m just making a slightly educated guess here, but that doesn’t sound like a good thing.  I’ve already heard about how the bees are imperative to our society…I’ve got a fairly good grip on how crucial air is to all the daily life on Earth…I mean…yeah – I’m onboard with what Giant Silent World is singing about and understand where they’re coming from.  It’s unfortunate for bees that I personally lump them in with wasps and other stinger-flyer-thingys…but sure, I get where the band is coming from and salute their mission.  I know I don’t want my skin bleedin’ – do you?  Seems like we should be paying at least SOME attention to this stuff they’re singing about if we haven’t been already?  I dig this opening tune for real though…all kidding and factual information aside, it’s got this wild mix of ideas that seems to take this song from an experimental, Zooropa-esque vibe, all the way back to the gang-style vocals you’d find in something like really early Chili Peppers.  Obviously there are miles of difference between bands like RHCP & U2 when it comes right down to it, so you get an idea of the widespread sound here.

You SHOULD be familiar with “High Noon” by now – it was the lead single from this album, and I think it came out about a month or so ago by now with its full video support…somewhere around there.  Anyhow – that’s the litmus test y’all…if you’re the savviest among us, you’ve already been spinning this tune plenty since it was released in advance.  If not, then guess what – as of today, you’ve got full control of your own destiny, and plenty of opportunity to push play & catch up to the rest of us – you’re welcome!  I feel like this track worked out real strong for the duo overall…Chris does a solid job taking on the lead vocals, Pete’s adding in a metric ton of personality through the guitars and music…let’s be real here – “High Noon” has a remarkable amount of appeal to it, and a strong universal groove that’s gonna be great for your summer ahead.  You factor in the brilliantly colorful, psychedelically-tinged video they’ve got to support this song, and I’d reckon it’s got all the right ingredients required to get you checking out “High Noon.”  Complete with hats that would make Crocodile Dundee jealous, honestly, the video for “High Noon” is incredibly effective and a reminder that things don’t need to be overly complex visually if you’ve got a great palette of colors and effects.  This is a stellar example of making the most out of what ya got…Giant Silent World has two solid stars at the helm, and between them & a green screen, “High Noon” shows us that personality, fun, and colors always make great entertainment.  Sure it helps that they’ve got a single-worthy song to go along with the video…that doesn’t hurt one bit.

“Breakfast With Mr. Average” has one of the hardest spots to fill in this particular lineup without question.  We’ve already experienced the uniqueness of something like “LEAF2BEE,” and the irresistible vibes of something like “High Noon” right before this third tune…and “Breakfast With Mr. Average” comes out with a low-end heavy sound that moves with a sleepier energy.  What I really like about this song is that every note and tone is filled with purpose and intent – that COUNTS for a ton in my Giant Silent world y’all…you need that in the music you make, and particularly in tracks that might not jump out at us as quickly as the songs we can easily identify with single-worthy sound.  Basically, it’s purpose and intent that become the main ingredient in situations like that – it’s what gives us a reason to listen, and can end up being just as effective as a big ol’ flashy hook when it comes to what our ears want to absorb, for many of us.  That being said, the masses tend to glom onto the hooks more than anything else…Giant Silent World knows that – I’m not breaking news here…they’d know that the odds of a song like “High Noon” appealing to the public are higher than “Breakfast With Mr. Average” would be.  Still, it ain’t at all a bad tune by any measure, and I feel like they deserve a lot of credit for that, because its appeal is really based on HOW they’ve played this together.  “Breakfast With Mr. Average” moves in a slick & sly way that should get people listening, and GSW has played this cut on a verifiably unified front.

Personally, I think that “Within A Life” is going to be recognized as the song that’s most universally loved on this album, and one of the easiest to enjoy, if not the number one tune in that regard.  Full disclosure, I’ve had the luxury of listening to this album for quite some time – and I’ve always felt like “Within A Life” is one of the album’s strongest cuts.  It’s got a sweet spirit to it that reminds me a lot of something like “Change” by Blind Melon back in the day…the sound is vastly different between the two tunes of course, but that’s not what I’m gettin’ at…I’m talkin’ about the essence of each song and the similarities between’em.  I suppose you could make a few comparisons with the acoustic-led guitar at the core of it as well…but I digress…the point I’m making is that it’s actually the FEELING you’d get in listening to both, and how each song is an inspiration to the soul…that’s what I’m talkin’ about really.  I really enjoy the level of detail that Giant Silent World adds into their music when it comes right down to it…I think a lot of people out there listening will easily hear the lead vocals from Smith and love’em, they’ll hear the BIG-ass drum sounds and the sweet strum of the acoustic, the steady rhythm of the bass and all…but there is SO MUCH MORE at work in a track like “Within A Life” and many of the tunes you’ll find on this record.  For real…take a spin through this album at some point and make a concentrated effort to listen to the background details…there is a staggering amount of effort put into a record like this, and hopefully that doesn’t get lost on those listening to it.  In my heart of hearts, I’d hope that’s a large part of the reason people continually come back for another round…they’ve really done themselves proud with how much they’ve put into their production & performances, and “Within A Life” is about as fine of an example as you could point towards.  Truly, this song speaks completely for itself.

“Headspace” – I suppose I can somewhat understand its inclusion in the sense that it’s tough to let go of anything we create, ain’t it?  Look.  Any album is going to have its own rhythm and pulse, its own ebb & flow, and supply us with a mix of what we like & what we love – that’s the nature of the game and how it works y’all.  Do I love “Headspace” personally?  Nah.  I don’t hate it, I don’t skip it, but it’s not substantial competition to my favorite tracks on this record.  Quality-wise, I don’t feel like they’ve dropped the ball here in terms of production, their performance, or how it sounds even…which really makes it more of a personal taste type of thing, you know what I mean?  Some folks out there are gonna love “Headspace,” and I’m totally happy for anyone out there that feels that way about it!  To me, it feels more like it’s designed as an audible line in the sand that separates side-A from side-B, like that song you’d find starting the second half after you flipped over the cassette.  I’m now showing my age, which means it’s time to wrap up my thoughts here…”Headspace” does have a tangibly different vibe to it, and I’m sure that’ll be appreciated by at least some listeners out there.  As to whether or not it’ll go on to be the favorite tune of the bunch for the majority tuning in…I dunno… that’s probably a long shot.

I’ve come around a bit to “Give Me Time,” and I feel like that’ll be the case for listeners as well overall.  At the start, it’s hard to say what the masses will think about this tune on those first couple of spins.  I mean, we’re currently looking at songs like “High Noon” and “Within A Life” as the gold-standard of what will get people listening quickly…and “Give Me Time” has a much more distant demeanor to it.  So much so, that I still feel like “Space Oddity” by Bowie is one of its closest cousins in sound/style…and I’d reckon it doesn’t get much more distant than Major Tom’s journey from way back when.  That being said…if that’s true, which I feel it is, well…I mean…that would imply that “Give Me Time” is actually standing on incredibly solid ground, wouldn’t it?  “Space Oddity” was only a massive mega-hit and one of Bowie’s most beloved songs…so if that’s the case, then “Give Me Time” should be on track to be one of GSW’s most sought out tunes too, right?  Time will tell.  I’ll have to go back through all the Bowie lore out there…right now I’m wondering if “Space Oddity” would have been misjudged at first, or if the record companies out there immediately knew they were listening to a track that would captivate the world like it eventually went on to do for decades to follow.  Could they have known?  Could Bowie have known?  Perhaps.  Maybe it’s better to have tracks like that and “Give Me Time” sneak up on us & work their magic like a slow-releasing opiate instead…maybe that’s part of the reason for their success.  All I know is that at first, I felt like “Give Me Time” might have been a bit too slow to have as much appeal as I was looking for, and I’ve reached a point now where I genuinely appreciate its mesmerizing movement.  Yeah…all-in-all, I suppose I’d even go as far as to say that this is one of the album’s better tunes for sure.  It’s definitely one of the strongest cuts I’ve heard for Smith’s vocals, and the song has hooks built to last.

“ME” is a highlight example of a track that works really well for Giant Silent World, though arguably carries less identity to it that would cue listeners into what they’re listening to.  Chances are, they’d likely assume they’re listening to Depeche Mode before GSW…which, obviously ain’t a bad thing, and I’m sure there’s a part of Smith that’s even quite happy about that fact – but it IS something to be mindful of in the long run.  I feel like Smith’s vocals are a pretty logical comparison to Gahan’s when left to their own devices and instincts…so don’t get me wrong, the comparison is natural and doesn’t feel like it’s forced.  Where I think Giant Silent World shows their smarts is that they’ve never relied on that.  They’ve gone in their own direction, and for the vast majority of the material they’ve released so far, you wouldn’t even think about the similarities between the two singers.  With the more digitally-enhanced vibe, swelling bass sounds, and metallic drum hits in the mix driving “ME,” the comparison becomes more obvious to us – but a couple times here and there ain’t gonna kill’em…in fact, you could argue that it’s a good thing for GSW in some ways too.  Familiarity goes a long way in music at times.  I might be the guy that is always going to argue for undeniable uniqueness and art, but that’s still a genuine rarity in music no matter what you do as an artist or band!  So while “ME” sounds like it’s drawing largely on a Depeche Mode style & influence…I dunno…it’s not exactly a bad move to play towards what some of your natural strengths and skills bring out either, you feel me?  Personally, I really enjoy the song…I might argue on behalf of identity and such, but at the same time, I’m no less immune to familiarity than any other listener out there.  “ME” sounds freakin’ great – ain’t that all that matters?

When I originally heard “CODEX” in my advanced uber-fan listening session, I mentioned that this song reminded me a lot of the laidback vibes of something like “King Of Birds” by R.E.M. – and I feel like I can stand by that here with its finalized mix as well.  It’s a GOOD TUNE…the kind I’d have a seriously hard time remotely complaining about, because this kind of sound has a lot of genuine appeal to me.  I love the way the guitars move in this tune…I love the steady rumble of the bass and how it keeps this dreamy sound grounded…I dig the vocals and the melody you’ll find there too.  Where “CODEX” is bound to run into a few problems potentially, is that not everyone out there is me.  It’s a sad fact, I know, I know.  All kidding aside, what I’m referring to, is that “CODEX” basically stays stuck in first gear from start to finish.  If you like that particular kind of design, or the sound as much as I do, clearly you’re in great shape to enjoy this track and probably even feel like it’s also one of the album’s better tracks – but if you’re looking for a bit more in the music you’re listening to…five minutes can be a long time in one single gear.  You’re not going to hear the shift from verse to chorus in that typical way you associate with most music on “CODEX” – you’re going to hear Giant Silent World keep their roll goin’ as strong as it started with very little movement to even separate the two parts.  Which in itself, doesn’t seem like their own normal recipe as we’ve come to know it…you could argue that even despite the finer details in the mix, “CODEX” is an example of GSW at its most bare-bones and minimalist.  That’s all I’m saying.  That doesn’t have to be a bad thing whatsoever – in fact, it’s a positive for a lot of listeners out there – Giant Silent World might even find their fans asking them for MORE tunes made in a similar style to this song.  I’ll say this…even I’d admit, “CODEX” isn’t the kind of track that people tend to start ranting and raving about…but in the long run, I do feel like it’s one of the songs that listeners will continually seek out over time.  “They can’t all be zingers,” as Primus would tell ya.  Sometimes, we really just want a steady, well-balanced tune, and/or something boldly mellow…“CODEX” will be there to supply when you need that.  It ends up being spectacularly hypnotic in its own way & there’s value in that kind of approach for sure.

I’d keep a “Headspace” probably ten times before I’d keep a “Wash Away” – but I don’t know that I’d have included either onto this particular record.  I don’t know that it’d necessarily be stronger without them, but at the same time, I have a hard time arguing that this lineup is stronger WITH them as well, you feel me?  Performance-wise, and production-wise, I feel like this band is always on solid ground – so it really just becomes about really tapping into what material is strong, unique to them, or is going to resonate with the people out there listening.  When it comes to “Wash Away,” I gotta push back against a vocal melody that reminds me of “Hush Little Baby” because I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t…I ain’t here to listen to nursery rhymes with a different spin on’em, which is kind of what the verses to this particular tune are like, in my opinion.  If you don’t share that opinion, I’m cool with that – but please let me borrow your ears because I can’t seem to hear it any other way.  I do like the majority of the rest of the song, but I don’t know that I’m hearing anything to substantial in “Wash Away” that would supply me with that all-important reason to return.  It’s Giant Silent World at the end of the day – I’m not gonna turn it OFF, but hell yeah, I’m just like anyone else that always wants a reason to turn something UP too, you know?  I really like how the backing vocals come in at the end of the verses and I dig the transition into the chorus…but yeah…overall, I feel like “Wash Away” is probably the track that would have been under the knife for myself personally in assessing what should have ended up on the cutting room floor.

Ending on a self-anthem of sorts…I think they beat the odds here.  Usually, in the past I’ve found that the vast majority of songs that include a band’s or artist’s name are practically doomed to fail or that they end up being some kind of a letdown when they’re usually intended to be a celebration of sorts – but I’m cool with “My Giant Silent World.”  I feel like a lot of what they want to say to us as a band is threaded into the lyricism, spoken word samples, and quirky-but-catchy music at the core of this last track.  They might “declare this an emergency,” but clearly they’ve set aside some time for us all to dance before the world burns itself down to the ground!  So that’s considerate…you gotta appreciate that.  Look…it’s always tough to make a serious record about serious issues without it becoming seriously daunting to listen to – but Giant Silent World proves that it’s possible to achieve.  They’ve been able to make meaningful material throughout the course of this entire record, but it’s tracks like “My Giant Silent World” at the end that also go a long way to confirm that you can still make serious stuff into FUN too, if you’re feeling so inclined.  They’ve got the synthesizers blastin’ – they’ve got the crisp POP in the drums kickin’ up the beat for ya – they’ve got a wide selection of strangeness and interesting ideas in the mix, spoken word samples, and a hook you can sing along with too…all things that stack up to a strong finish to what’s been an excellent record to listen to.  Fueled by purpose and passion, Giant Silent World continues to evolve into the band they want to be, and it’s inspiring to hear them thriving –  even if they’re pumping out a warning sign that reminds us we might not have that much time left if we don’t collective change our ways, and quickly.

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