Uneasy listening par excellence, showcasing real creative flair.
Alistair Lawrence 2009-10-01
Eyedea & Abilities’ harshest critics really are themselves. In interviews what felt like five minutes after its release, they effectively disowned their previous effort (second album E&A) and have taken half a decade to follow it up. Factor in Eyedea’s botched rock side project, Carbon Carousel, in the interim period and it seems like they’ve got an itch they can’t scratch.
By the Throat does its best to do just that. Featuring buzzsaw guitars and live drumming to match growling basslines on more than one track, for one bone-shuddering moment it seems like they’re trying to bring rap-metal back from the dead. That fear is quashed the minute Eyedea opens his mouth, though. An accomplished battle rapper and, at his best, as witty, incisive and self-loathing a wordsmith as exists, it’s clear that producer Abilities’ desire to deliver less than a dozen dirty-feeling, electrifying shocks – By the Throat is 11 tracks and 29 minutes – suits his neuroses just fine. Best of all, he’s stopped trying to sing, for the most part.
So, despite the album’s brevity, we get a pitch-black grin painted across Hay Fever that’d make anyone who remembers the invective of early Nine Inch Nails smile, the claustrophobic storytelling of Time Flies When You Have a Gun and brilliantly bleak hooks – “Empathy is the poor man’s cocaine / and love is just a chemical by any other name” – bursting out of Burn Fetish.
At its best, By the Throat is uneasy listening par excellence, teeming with misanthropy and a state of permanent distraction. It’s escapism for people too apathetic to escape, but not withdrawn from life to the point where they can’t write an affecting song about it. Where it falls down is that, in their bid not to bore themselves, the strongest tracks feel like they’re cut down in their prime too often.
Given the duo’s creative flair, Eyedea & Abilities doubtless have more great music lurking within them. The next test will be to see if this album proves to be the springboard from which they – finally – fully take flight.