Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Sunny Day Real Estate – Sunny Day Real Estate (also known as LP2) (1995)

Despite Diary's success, SDRE had a pretty uncomfortably defined relationship with their audience as well as themselves, so the follow-up proved to be a knottier affair, and not just because it's widely known as either Sunny Day Real Estate, LP2, or The Pink Album. The songs themselves didn't get any shorter or less intense, but they feel significantly less edified. When the charmingly animated video for "Seven" ran on "120 Minutes", it never felt too out of place regardless of whether it led into Jawbox or Pearl Jam, but LP2 tended to veer more towards the obscure. It certainly didn't help that the packaging itself contained no artwork other than its entirely pink cover or lyric sheet. And compared to Diary's untouchable opening triad, that of LP2 was bound to pale, and you feel like SDRE is playing it overly self-aware — "Friday", "Theo B", and "Red Elephant" each would've been the shortest track on Diary, save for its near-interlude "Phuerton Skeurto". "Friday" starts LP2 with the kind of risky, slippery melody that all but screams "difficult follow-up." The high-wired guitars of "8" introduce damn near atonality, the kind of chords an amateur bangs out on a piano, but soon they become the backbone of the record's most muscular number.

It's easy to project the idea that this was a band dissolving personally and musically from the inside-out if you know the history, but the music itself is every bit as ghostly on its own — even beyond the threadbare arrangements, Enigk has said that many lyrics were left unfinished or sung as gibberish. LP2 certainly has more than its share of moments, but in the context of SDRE's artistic arc, a time when they wanted to be Shudder To Think instead of arena-fillers can feel like a bridge to nowhere.

And that was pretty much it for the classic lineup of SDRE — the rhythm section would play on Foo Fighters' The Colour and the Shape, a record whose brickwalled dynamics and gleaming-edge guitar arguably did just as much to determine the actual sound of modern radio rock as Sunny Day or even producer Gil Norton's work with the Pixies. Meanwhile, Enigk would put more emphasis on mysticism than mystery for 1998's amber, glowing How It Feels to Be Something On and 2000's divisive swan song (to this point) The Rising Tide. Some saw Tide as a natural culmination of Enigk's sonic ambitions and lyrical specificity, while others took Return of the Frog Queen and "Rain Song" in tandem and wondered when the fuck this guy turned into Rick Wakeman. Either way, it certainly deserved better than to be tethered to Time Bomb Records, which would shortly cease to exist after the release of The Rising Tide.

Sure, the B-sides will generate some interest amongst die-hards, but as is the case with the recent Radiohead reissues, the sort of fans that would buy a Sunny Day Real Estate album twice probably are more than familiar with, say, "The Crow". But really, it might just be in the vein of so many rereleases that are meant as a reminder or a call for rediscovery — in some circles, SDRE is Pavement, or MBV or any of the other 1990s legends you might care to mention, but a huge difference of perception is that most of their acolytes, despite making great records, are just too damn earnest to be fashionable. Or maybe it's just that Sunny Day Real Estate's influence is more conceptual than musical, and if that's the case, it's been so fully adapted into modern rock (emo or not) that it's not so much innovative as it is timeless.

Sunny Day Real Estate – Sunny Day Real Estate (also known as LP2) (1995) 320kbps