Ought have put in a strong resume as the most frustrating modern rock band, and Sun Coming Down confirms this dubious title. The Canadian boys have gained mountains of hype from the usual buzz blogs thanks to their brooding, off-kilter post-punk attack, fronted by slashing guitars, a warbling singer and a tight drummer. And, despite all that, they’ve never made a release that goes beyond the low ranking of “meh.”

This is all the more frustrating when you hear how much talent and promise Ought have. Tim Beeler Darcy’s off-key croon has enough shades of Lou Reed to combine into a potent force with the fuzzed out and rage filled guitars. He’s gawky and awkward, but on songs like “Today, More Than Any Other Day” he funnels it into a wide-eyed intensity that radiates strange joy and pure paranoia in equal amounts. And much like Canadian counterparts Viet Cong, Ought are quick with the riffs, the sort of things that were perfected in either ’77 or ’79 depending on your preference for Television or Gang of Four. They’ve written brilliant songs over the years, and Sun Coming Down has a few new additions. The opening duo “Men for Miles” and “Passionate Turn,” are two of their finest yet. “Men for Miles” sounds like a lost Bauhaus track, with Darcy’s vocals as knotty and spiraling as the guitars. “Passionate Turn” chooses a different route, revealing a mournful vocal twist from Darcy, a great reminder that Ought’s best moments often come as moments of reflection in a storm of chaos (also see “Habit” from their last record).

Unfortunately, things go south quickly afterward. Despite the steely and messy intro of “The Combo,” the song eventually devolves into a wayward guitar jam that never finds the same momentum it held in its opening measures. The title track has some of Ought’s most powerful guitar work, but Darcy chews the scenery too much, never giving the guitar squall a good enough frontman. Darcy’s worst moment comes in the nearly eight minute long “Beautiful Blue Sky,” as he howls “How’s the family?” over and over again. The point is probably to point out the mediocrity of every day life, but his thesis and prose are drowned out by his grating notes. “Celebration” tries to be a noise-rocker, but Ought don’t have the edge to pull of anything that can be in the same room as KEN Mode or Dope Body.

There are so many shimmers of promise on Sun Coming Down that it should be a crime what Ought have done with these ideas. So many riffs, so many poetic lyrical strains, so many drum fills, all wasted on an album that can never decide what it wants to be. Ought have had occasional strokes of genius, and their prowess as a live band has been documented (just check out their stunning Take Away Show), but Sun Coming Down is another failure to launch from a band that, as Franz Ferdinand might put it, could do so much better.

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