Review by Dom Vigil
The Membranes’ new album, Dark Matter/Dark Energy has a little bit of everything, and considering the overall theme of the album, the differing sounds its highs and lows suit it perfectly. Dark Matter/Dark Energy is a story about the universe (among other things) and that much is obvious from the dark and eerie first track, which is a five minute long build up into the rest of the album. Dark Matter/Dark Energy ebbs and flows from distorted punk tracks to more ambient, reverb-heavy experimental songs, and the result is perfect for the story that the band strives to tell on this album. While it has its highs and lows, Dark Matter/Dark Energy absolutely succeeds in telling a story and making you feel something as it chugs forward with fourteen massive tracks.
“The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light” is the theatrical and eerie opening track, which comes and goes in waves, growing big and commanding before becoming small again, carried by just a simple bass line and guitar riff. There isn’t necessarily a normal song structure to this first track. Rather than that typical structure of intro, verse, chorus, bridge, it seems to ebb and flow, creating the perfect opening to an album about the universe. The following track, “Do The Supernova” is more chaotic than “The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light.” Starting off mellow and full of reverb where the first track ends, “Do The Supernova” quickly transitions into aggressive vocals, distorted guitar and a rather punk feeling sound, which is a huge contrast to the first song. There is also significantly more structure to “Do The Supernova” and the songs following it, but they are also their own brand of experimental.
Dark Matter/Dark Energy definitely has its highs and lows as well as vastly differing sounds and moods. Where the first track is more ambient, songs like “21st Century Man” are very grungy and punk. If you were to play the two songs side by side to someone who is not familiar with The Membranes, there’s no way that they’d guess that they are by the same artist. This is both a strength and a weakness - as a new listener, it may take some time to get used to the wide variety of sounds on the album, but as someone who is familiar with the band, it’s chaotic and fun to listen to.
Following the same formula as the tracks preceding it, “Money Is Dust” contrasts incredibly with “21st Century Man” with a more laid back (verging on groovy) sound. This is the perfect example of highs and lows on this album. Another good contrast comes between upbeat “Hail To The Lovers” and the following song, “Magic Eye (To See The Sky),” which feels very psychedelic and stands out from much of the album.
The only real downside on Dark Matter/Dark Energy is that there aren’t really any big, bright or shining moments in many songs. That’s not to say there are cool little moments in each track (like the insane guitar work and effects in “Space Junk”) but as the album progresses, there aren’t any catchy choruses or melodies that are going to get stuck in your head or leave you singing along after the album comes to an end. Though possibly, that’s just what The Membranes wanted to create with this release. The songs on Dark Matter/Dark Energy aren’t trying to be anything they’re not. The album as a whole is a little bit of everything - ambient, experimental, aggressive and explosive. While you may not walk away singing any catchy melodies, you will definitely feel like you’ve just been on an adventure.
Listen to "Do The Supernova" or "Magic Eye (To See The Sky)"
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