In order to really explain this album, let me start off with a little story. On March 2, 2001, my friends and I headed down to Kansas City to catch an Unwed Sailor show. That night, however, it was Ester Drang that blew me away. It was the first time I heard their Goldenwest material, and it just left me with my jaw on the ground and eyes wide as saucers. The Elevator Division opened that night, and if I recall, I was actually disappointed. I’d heard their debut album, and I was expecting that particular Cure-meets-Violet Burning sound. But the songs they played that night were just plain old, garden-variety indie-pop. Or so I thought.
But then I saw them again (at a show I booked, in fact), and this time it all clicked. True, the atmospherics of their first album were gone (due to their keyboardist’s departure). But in their place were better songs, leaner and meaner, more melodic and explosive.
I suppose I shouldn’t say the atmospherics are completely gone. True, you won’t find any of the dark, sweeping synthwork that filled Imaginary Days. But it’s still there, reduced and focused to where it’s really necessary. Instead, Movement’s focus is on the song itself, and as a whole, these are far better songs than those on Imaginary Days. The songs are stripped down to their bare essence, and propelled by the band’s driving basslines and explosive drumming.
There’s also this stripped down approach in the lyrics. Imaginary Days had been rife with Psalm-like imagery and drama. Movement’s lyrics are far simpler, dealing with relationships and people moving from one point in their life to another. There’s very little flowery imagery; the words feel tighter, resulting in a strange nervous tension when delivered in Hoskin’s straining voice. When he sings “It’s the feeling you get/When you try to hold on one more minute” (“Eighty-Eight”), there’s a palpable tension there, driven home by his building guitar lines.
Despite comparisons to the likes of Jimmy Eat World, there’s nothing remotely “emo” or “indie” about Movement. Rather, the core of Movement’s sound owes far more to early Cure à la Faith or Seventeen Seconds. That’s best seen in Paul Buzan’s basslines, the keyboard bridge of “Alone” (which perfectly underscores the lyrics’ gloominess), or the forlorn piano and cello that open “A Model Citizen.” Despite much of the album’s rather gloomy sound, there’s nothing overwrought or melodramatic about it, which was one criticism of their first album. Rather, these songs have a tight, almost laserbeam-like focus to them, and the result is one of 2001’s underrated gems.