With their slow burning punk anthems, no one would think to call Ought traditionalists. But on Sun Coming Down, the Montreal band’s excellent second album, their compositions draw heavily from a tradition of alternative music. They take their collective past and repurpose the sounds in order to keep expanding on it.
A keyboard opens up “Men for Miles,” the album’s opening track, immediately calling to mind post-hardcore band “The Dismemberment Plan,” before fading into a wall of sound created by Tim Darcy’s voice and guitar. The song’s motoric rhythm pumps forward from there and provides a backbone for Darcy’s as his guitar fades and builds, drops out. It hold up the schizophrenic jitter of his cadence. This is done perfectly in the song’s chorus where guitar falls out completely, and it is Darcy’s voice is alone against the driving rhythm, singing “there were men for miles/ there were men for miles.” Even lyrically, the repetition of the words, continues along with the motorik beat, with the march forward. Eventually, as many of the songs on this album do, it explodes into a climax of huge guitar and drums.
“Beautiful Blue Sky” is composed in a similar vein to “Men for Miles.” An even beat, and climactic bursts of sound that fade, and deconstruct leaving only Darcy’s voice, which depending on the moment can range from Lou Reed poetry to Kim Gordon swaggering to Tom Verlaine yelping. There is the Dead Kennedys-esque “Celebration.” There is the chaotic drums and noise at the start of “Sun Coming Down.” “Beautiful Blue Sky” is more or less the center of the album, and its placement there, makes it the foundation of Sun Coming Down. It is the album’s centerpiece, and it holds together the other ideas that Ought experiments with throughout the album. The song considers the effects of gentrification on the punk scene, and pushes forward at a brisk pace. There are no major changes in rhythm, and it serves to anchor the songs surrounding it, with their mood and rhythm changes.
And then there is “On the Line,” which starts with just Darcy singing over a violin drone. “Featureless/ Stranger/ Upon the Ridge/ Don’t fear,” he sings, before continuing on about Ava Marias, and being someone’s dog. He sounds like Lou Reed, reading lines of Patti Smith’s poetry. And then half a minute in, the drums kick in and the song speeds up and shoves a punk freak out into another half minute, before dropping out again. “Ava Maria I am your dog,” Darcy bellows it with more urgency this time. The song continues to go through highs and lows, before settling into their standard motorik beat again. And that’s what Ought does; transcendent moments of sound, the climaxes, Darcy’s schizophrenic vocals, all held together by the driving bass and drums that form the foundation of each of these tracks.
By Alex Sniatkowski