I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness has been a presence in Austin, Texas since the members got together in 2001. The band’s 2003 self-titled EP, produced by Spoon‘s Britt Daniel, set them aside as one of the few American bands able to capture moments from the past and recreate them as equally commanding. Fear Is On Our Side is a slight departure from the goth-chic 2003 effort, guided well by producer Paul Barker (Ministry, Blackouts) through the music’s still-present darkly atmospheric element. Sounding more like they should hail from Joy Division’s hometown of Manchester, the members of I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness have learned well from early U2, latter day Talk Talk, and the Chameleons — incorporating these elements as efficiently into their sound as effectively as the Stills were able to do on Logic Will Break Your Heart.
The tone is set by “The Ghost” and the torch is carried admirably by “According to Plan,” but not until we reach the third track, “Lights,” does this spark set the room ablaze. Christian Goyer’s voice plays with the melody above the delicate guitars, temperamental synths, the bass that at times sounds like it could easily have been on a New Order record, and the drums echoing out from some lonely corner. The ending forms into a stream of instruments and voices evoking not only British comparisons, but also tangents resembling the Smashing Pumpkins and fellow Texas band Explosions in the Sky.
The entire record is extremely intimate. The instruments are inseparable from the atmospherics, like wisps of cigarette smoke stealing into the evening drizzle. “Give yourself a minute to catch your breath,” Goyer sings on “Last Ride Together,” one of those songs that seems destined to be on the soundtrack for a depressing, coming-of-age (read: loss-of-youth) movie. “Give yourself a minute to catch your breath. Give yourself a minute to figure out ‘What next?”‘
The band’s accomplishment on Fear Is on Our Side is that no matter what direction the song goes, the journey is always worth it, the ending is a satisfying resolution. Guitars negotiate their way through the epic disposition of the keyboards, the bass punching through the black mass of melodies along with the vulnerable drums exploring the entire space they are given to reverberate through — and yet none of these production tricks seems to counterbalance the objective: to write effective songs. Just as the members of Cities did with their debut, I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness has wandered down a shadow-laden path without stumbling off course, without getting lost in the haunting aspect of the songs. Fear Is on Our Side is an emotive and powerful record that should elevate the band to play with in Austin onto a larger stage.