Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker opens softly with a vague, obfuscated hint to the more aggressive approach that comes later — but while Des Ark could simply abandon their sound mid-album and toss it aside, this is a band on a mission. The way forward for Des Ark is clearly through the flexing of some musical know-how — the melody is a strand holding the rest of the album together. It’s how Des Ark comes across a band worth a listen. It’s a delicate strand, but Don’t Rock the Boat… would be disjointed and erratic without it.
“Bonne Chance Asshole” is the clear turning point, and mid-song, Des Ark pivots from sentimentality to something altogether more aggressive. The turn is rather jolting, but it’s not entirely unsuccessful — it doesn’t feel necessarily unnatural, and when they take on a heavy guitar-oriented approach nearer to post-hardcore than the gentle pop-folk with which they kicked off the album and move to something more energized, you can’t help but wonder where their real sound lies.
Aimee Argote’s vocals really make the album, and while the guitar work may seem largely derivative of 1990s math rock, post-hardcore, and post-rock, it’s that voice — it’s a luxurious one when Argote hits her best notes — that sets this aside. The instrumentation’s not regrettable, but it’s not really memorable on its own. Taken in relation, what we have is something worth a cursory glance, and with that glance, it becomes clear that there’s definitely something noteworthy here — it’s just hard to say what, exactly.
This is an album that’s been in the works for what seems to be some time — in January 2010, the album was supposed to be released in April or May, and before that, the album was “coming soon.” Don’t Rock the Boat…— following their first release, Loose Lips Sink Ships, by nearly six years and their split with Ben Davis & The Jetts, Battle of the Bears, by about five — is an improvement on their old sound, and we have something here that’s undoubtedly an easier, smoother listen.
It doesn’t fix everything though, and there are still rocks along the way: Des Ark has trod a bumpy trail, and the results may be largely mixed, but at least Don’t Rock the Boat… keeps things interesting.