Review ·

With all the really bad shit going down on this rock we call Earth right now (famine, war, global warming, escalating gas prices, the Jonas Brothers), it’s easy to let yourself get caught up in a panic. Theoretical questions -- Is the human race going to survive? Is the Earth going to disappear tomorrow? When will war end and peace begin? -- will become weighty inner-brain discussions as you become increasingly sure that you can solve all the problems that those douches in the White House, and nay, the world, haven’t figured out.


If you get pissed off enough you’ll make an album. As works by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, John Mellencamp, and George Michael (for christ’s sake), have taught us, that album will suck. Hard. But those big “State of the World” albums aren’t just for gray-haired, dried-up, soft-rockers anymore: Indie bands are also capable of blasé message rock.


On their appropriately (and doomily) titled third album, Oceans Will Rise, Montreal band the Stills address the end of the world in the only way they know how -- with marginally catchy, heart-on-sleeve ballads that never hook up with their aspirations.  As they say on “Snow in California”: “The world is changing, so gather up your friends.”


The Stills have always been somewhat a victim of circumstance sound-wise, as their first album, the brooding Logic Will Break Your Heart, had the unfortunate task of trying to do Joy Division-meets-pop-post-punk when Interpol had the market cornered. On their sophomore album, Without Feathers, the band opted for roots-rock crossed Kinks-style swagger, when every hot indie-rock band putting an album out in ’06 was doing the same (Dr. Dog, Takka Takka, the Walkmen, and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, among others). Oceans Will Rise is a bit of a sonic hodgepodge of the Stills’ last two albums, but it finds the band stretching themselves out to the anthemic heights of another used-to-be post-punk band hell bent on political chronicling: U2.


Nowhere on the album is the band’s newfound self-importance on more prominent display than the aforementioned “Snow in California.” The song begins with a clarion call of reverb-heavy guitar, and then transitions to a sing-along verse that features gems like, “Like snow in California/signs from up on high” and “O the world is changing/ Mayan Calendar ends.” Coupled with songs like “Panic,” which lists instances of environmental strife (like polar bears falling though ice), “Dinosaurs,” about extinction, and “Everything I Build” a chronicle of how bad humanity has made earth, it makes for an album-long soapbox session.


But coming from a band that used to name songs “Ready for It,” “Gender Bombs,” and “Lola Stars and Stripes,” it seems like a desperate bid for attention and importance. It’s not that rock bands can’t cover social issues, it’s just that no one particularly wants them to. In the end, Oceans Will Rise becomes yet another voice yelling from the pulpit that some bad shit is about to go down, while simultaneously benefitting from the panic it creates.






Kaiser Cartel - March Forth Obi Best Capades

Totally wrong on this one. This is a truly, wonderful, thoughtful glowing artistic statement. Very few contemporaries write as well as The Stills. Songwriting, lyrics, textures, playing, production. Totally enjoyable listen from beginning to end. So many tremendous songs on this record. Your reasoning on this one is way off base.


Agreed. I think this album is beautiful and haunting, and very human too. It's easy to simplify in categorizing what you may take this album for, but I think it shows itself to be a very moving and great work by a band who is pushing things and going for it, and reaching out to everyone. This album is amazing. I agree with Miles concerning your reasoning.


Forget about the topics, the music on this album it's just awesome and that's it.


This review is way off the mark. Very cynical. I totally connected with this album right from the start, and its only gotten better with each listen. The themes and lyrics evoke so many issues that have been on my mind of late in a poetic call to action. Case in point: the reviewer states 'Snow In California's lyrics as being "the world is changing, so gather up your friends" when the lyrics are "so Rally up your friends" - one word, but it makes a big difference in meaning. This is a call to action that few contemporary bands have the will to make. Marginally catchy? These songs have been in my head for weeks, so how do you explain that? This is just another reviewer that does a great disservice to music by listening to an album once and dismissing it; the best albums grow on you and uncover new dimensions with each listen, and Oceans Will Rise does just that. If people were to listen to your misleading reviews Mr. Winistorfer, we'll be stuck with more Jonas Brothers and less of the genuine heartfelt expression that really matters. I actually do want rock bands to cover social issues, music doesn't exist in a vacuum, and if you're not singing about what's going on in your head and in the world, then what the hell are you singing about? Great album.


I'm glad everyone that commented agreed with not agreeing with the reviewer. I never even picked up on the social issues, but will now, so thank you. Other than that, I agree the lyrics, melodies, production values, catchiness of the record are all in top form. This is by far and away my choice for best album of 2008. Buy it, go see them live! I'm missing them in Chicago this week...dang.


good work, Andrew. I would've given it an even lower rating, actually.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/matt/IMG_0695.jpg matt

Wow, everybody who bought the record liked it but the two ugly music critics in s__tty bands nobody's heard of who write for this magazine didn't. I smell a pattern....keep up the stereotypes!

Eva B

Hey this album is absolutely AMAZING... Everyday I wonder why Coldplay still has success when they are doing the same since they started... they sound the same, boring music... The Stills should be more than Coldplay or any other band... Oceans will rise is better than their 1st album... Congratulations boys! my rating is 9/10


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