Mess is less on the second album from Oklahoma psych-rock band Evangelicals. There’s nothing wrong with a sprawling album, per se, as Pink Floyd’s Meddle and Blur’s 13 attest to. But a sprawler is always a dangerous gambit for a band. It can easily trip over the line from cracked genius into failed experiment, as The Evening Descends does.
Evangelicals’ 2006 debut, So Gone, was already an eclectic affair, but it stayed anchored in stellar songs like “Hello, Jenn, I’m a Mess” and “The Water Is Warm.” There isn’t a similar standout to point to here. In fact, the record really isn’t song-based as much as it is a streaming cornucopia of music and noise — in the form of old movie clips, band members mumbling, and, most insipid of all, Evangelicals staging little radio plays complete with mimed machinery noise.
The band does best when it sounds most like it did on So Gone, a debut that showed plenty of promise. “Snowflakes” unfolds over pretty, languid arpeggios. After an opening that really recalls a song off The Wall’s third or fourth side, “Here in the Deadlights” settles down into a brighter, breezier groove that much of So Gone succeeded in. And “Skeleton Man” is the album’s most coherent tune, charging along on the type of pulsing bass line used so well in Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies)” and Electrelane’s “To the East.”
The song “Stoned Again,” and the overall druggy haze the album emits, got me thinking that the old Spacemen 3 equation “Take drugs to make music to take drugs to” only works out if both the drugs and the music are of high quality. Evangelicals must have gotten dealt some bad shit, because this isn’t exactly an enjoyable trip. At the end of The Evening Descends, on “Bloodstream,” lead Evangelical Josh Jones claims, “I was sleeping/ I must have been dreaming.” Maybe next time around this band will wake up to its true potential. Or at least get a better hookup on the pharmaceuticals.