It's been just two years since As Tall As Lions released their self-titled album and after a myriad of problems, including a near breakup and various producer changes, they've returned with You Can't Take It With You. Let me begin with the fact that I enjoyed their last album… in small doses. ATAL has a tendency to meander and to take their time reaching the destinations that they've set out to reach, but nonetheless, they make the slow journey in graceful, pleasant strides.
It seems, after hearing You Can't Take It With You, that As Tall As Lions probably believe that they're breaking new ground with this album but I'd have to disagree with them. While it certainly is 'artsy', which seems to be their forte, it's not very far off from the self-titled album. The intro track "Circles" jumps to a start with a tribal drum pattern and progresses to an upbeat, bassline powered verse which is actually quite good. The song maintains its power and push throughout and is probably, in my opinion, the best song on the entire album. Vocalist, Dan Nigro, displays his powerful voice and impressive range on "Sixes and Sevens", while the band retains the momentum from "Circles" with a shaker and glockenspiel rhythm section.
While the production of this album is, for a lack of a better word, flawless, at times it kind of feels as if As Tall As Lions drank a case of cough medicine and went running through an idea factory, haphazardly grabbing anything off of the shelves that they could manage to find in their enhanced state of mind and throwing it into the shaky, missing-a-wheel cart that is You Can't Take it With You. With styles of percussion that range from a working-man jamming in his garage to Don Quixote seducing senoritas, it gets a little confusing at times.
Not that that's always bad! The hodge podge combination of different worldy ideas and musical styles definitely keeps this album unpredictable and the band executes them all expertly. It's just that a lot of time the combination seems misdirected and almost as if they're trying too hard to be different.
The song "Duermete" is, in my opinion, the low point of the album. This song marks the 'come down' phase of their proverbial cough medicine adventure. very slow, meandering and just plain boring, "Duermete" begs to be skipped over, especially after reaching the two minute interlude of echos and artsiness.
With that said though, ATAL quickly redeem themselves with "In Case of Rapture". They jump back into action and pick up the pace while delivering some catchy melodies and fine instrumentation. Although they seem a little unsure of where to go in some of the songs on this album, they certainly still have a knack for creating captivating, melodic indie rock.
While I think Nigro could have tried a little harder with his lyrics (one line from "In Case of Rapture" is, "all hell is booked up and heaven has no vacancy") he has some good ideas and his melodies are always interesting.
Overall, You Can't Take It With You is sure to please previous fans of the band but I wouldn't count on it making them any new ones. They have the potential and the drive to make a truly great album so let's see if they can pull it off with the next one.