Follow up albums are particularly difficult to craft when the acclaim of an amazing first album haunts any effort to match or improve upon said debut. Melbourne’s Ceres just went and did it with ‘Drag It Down On You’.
What made Ceres first album so loveable was the playful balance between 90’s grunge/punk influences and the modern day indie/emo sound. The mix was one of happy/sad pop songs driven by jangly guitars and energetic drums, catchy hooks and near-anthem level singalongs.
This new offering is more of a dark horse. The base elements are still there but it’s fair to say the more emotive and arresting components of Ceres sound have been amplified. The melancholy of ‘I don’t want to be anywhere but here’ (hobbledehoy 2014) has been upgraded to serious lamenting and grief. Things get tense. Things get heavy and at times…a little uncomfortable but this is only evidence of a band digging deeper into that essential emotive appeal and bearing their souls to the world.
Guitars are bright and jangly. The band have stayed with the less-is-more approach and in most cases hits close to a Blueline Medic/Smith Street Band vibe. The highlights are when things get crazy messy and there’s layers of fuzz, gain, reverb and who knows what else all thrown in together for these crescendo’s that give chills.
One of the early standout tracks ‘Laundry Echo’ has this subtle and understated palm muted guitar during the verses. It’s all on it’s lonesome sounding rather whimpy until the band explodes in with fuzz/overdrive and some weird synthy feedback moment that comes crashing in with the drums. It all arrests itself and shrinks back down to the singular guitar hitting the chords again for another verse. It’s that kind of impact that grabs attention on the first spin.
The other case in point is the album closer ‘Baby Breath’ which features one hell of a performance from vocalist Tom. The line that broke me was ‘I had that dream again, that one where I was looking at your hips, we spoke about babies names and how ours would be like this’ Had to fight back the feels as the idea of hopes and fears come very close to home. Tom’s language is at times quite real and uncomfortable. For example “I am such a piece of shit, it’s okay, come on, let’s all admit it, we’ll put you in the ground but the dirt don’t deserve you” as heard on ’91 Your House’ is about as real as it gets.
The record is harsher than previous material. The production is quite raw and unpolished, no doubt an intentional product of the engineering behind it. Drums lack the crisp punch and attack synonymous with emo/punk thing and on a few numbers they sound a little boxed in despite the performances being solid as bricks. Frank Morder delivers some absolute quality drum parts too which make for excellent air drumming. The chorus of ‘Choke’ always gets me beating the steering wheel much to the amusement of passers by! I just thing the whole thing could have been enhanced with a little more sheen and shine behind the desk.
The main thing with an album like ‘Drag It Down On You’ or even a band like CERES is that what you get form the first listen will differ greatly from further spins. The record continues to impress a month after it’s release so if you missed it earlier, waste no time getting your ears around this gem.