Audio Outsend – …Or Does it Explode? (Flashcard)
“His bare feet were blue and ivory. It was all right somehow, his
being dead. So it goes.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
When the apocalypse comes, Audio Outsend will stare at us all. They will gaze blankly upon us as we scream and pray, wondering why we’re upset about the inevitable—they’re not. As they expound insistently in their music, all change leads to the same end, so why not accept the rapture? In the end, we’re all just rolling heads – and no one will care if God saves the queen.
The placid quartet’s first full album, …Or Does It Explode?, delivers leisurly electronica folk pop with stoic passiveness. The Oakland, California, group (formerly named Lazy Bones) dances around medium-to-slow tempos with concentrated transition, offering a soothing meld of acoustic and electronic sounds. Gentle melodies allow their sound to stay mild and familiar as the vocals lightly offer cryptic commentary that ultimately falls flat and glacial.
Audio Outsend seems determined to try for clean synthesis but still get in some art-school oddity without reason. The band’s musical structure is a familiar step from Radiohead, Lake Trout, and even the acoustic leanings of Bon Jovi. “Rolling Heads” features pretty finger-picking, hissing bottle rocket sound effects, and what seems to be a bewitching pan pipe solo – it’s a fluid song until the middle break, when a garbled male speaker rambles on without any clear purpose (a similar problem to the interlude in “Calling On the Girl”).
“Imagining Things?” opens the album and ends with the unsettling jangling of either jingle bells or metallic rain, an effect so loud it ends in a roar.
“Steereo” sounds unevenly mixed; the distorted vocals can barely be heard over the loud backing guitars and drums – but in contast, “A Racket of My Spine” is balanced delicately with a clever scale pattern that ends in quickly-resolved dissonance.
Most of the album lacks variance. It froths in the same general tempo, with the vocals repeating their own patterns. The vocals are dispassionate musings and generalities, ambivalent in meaning and impersonal in direction.
Ben Jenning’s lyrics, sleepily content to “let the glory of the quiet fill my day” (“Stand Tall Little Wall”), seem randomly compiled and lack genuine insight. In the most arresting song of …Or Does it Explode?, “The Great Lawn Competition,” he muses “so it goes” with the clear resignation and heavy-lidded view of the Vonnegut novel the phrase originated in; the sad understanding of the sigh speaks for how much Audio Outsend takes in and how little they wish to interpret. The words, so general and emotionless, paraphrase the entire album.
…Or Does it Explode? contains moments of loose, flowing beauty that suggest interesting directions for Audio Outsend but no defining element. If they really start caring, it might all go their way.