I’m a giddy little fan-boy of purveyors of finely executed instrumental rock, particularly when it does indeed “rock.” So I got a little excited when I heard about Pelican, a Chicago quartet that frequently makes the rounds in the area and has gained some increasing notoriety over the course of a few albums.
It’s taken me until album number three to play catch up; I’m older now and being the first kid on the block to get Pelican’s latest release, City Of Echoes wasn’t a big priority.
Once I finally heard Echoes, I was floored the moment I started playing it, but not for the reasons you might think. I was floored that Pelican, a band that by design should contain members that pride themselves on interaction and communication, is being driven by perhaps the worst drummer ever.
That’s a bit harsh because Pelican drummer Larry Herweg isn’t really the worst drummer ever. But he is quite awful and his performance takes the band from “finely executed instrumental rock” into “instrumental rock band with the shitty drummer.” Seriously: tempos speed up and fall behind, fills are hesitant and unimaginative, and every opportunity at depth or nuance is replaced with this plodding mess. It’s embarrassing and, more to the point, it’s unacceptable.
Part of the reason it’s such an issue is because City Of Echoes could have been a good album. And, to be honest, City Of Echoes is a good record, if someone would have the good sense to grab the master tape, take it back to the studio, and have a new drummer re-record everything that Herweg laid down.
The guitar interplay is good; guitarist Trevor DeBrauw and Laurent Schroeder-Lebec do some fine fretwork that keeps things entertaining and innovative. But it’s all in vain, as every goddamn measure is ultimately distracted by amateurish propulsion.
I hold the rest of Pelican equally responsible here, as there is no way that the other three members couldn’t have noticed this problem during rehearsals, let alone the recording studio. I understand that there is some nepotism afoot within the rhythm section (Herweg’s brother, Bryan, plays bass), but for God’s sake, someone needs to man up and admit that there’s a very crucial element within the band that is not contributing to the greater good.
This is a shame as there are some moments where Pelican could stand tall against comparable outfits like Explosions In The Sky. However, before they can rival their Austin, Texas compatriots, they must first attend to the liability in their own back yard.