Pelican
"What We All Come to Need"

(Southern Lord 2009)Pelican - What We All Come to Need

It's an interesting "predicament" for a band to be in: to release an album that, while garnering mainly complimentary and guardedly positive reviews, is still seen by many as a disappointment. This is where Pelican found themselves, though, following 2007's "City of Echoes." The band had preceded this with two undeniable classics; 2003's doomtastic "Australasia" and the equally stunning "The Fire in our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw." "Echoes," though, saw the band move away from glacial movements to more upbeat post-rock territory. Most saw it not as a bad album but, well, just not a Pelican album. So it's up to "What We All Come to Need" to begin perhaps the most crucial phase of the band's career, and it does so in fine fashion.

While not a complete regression to their early days, "What We All Come to Need" takes up many of the threads that made Pelican's first two LPs so punishingly powerful. The tone here is simpler and darker than "Echoes," the band using only a few riffs per songs like a sledgehammer, forcefully and methodically pounding them home. The heaviest strokes fall on "The Creeper" and "Ephemeral," both studies in instru-metal patience and execution. Guitarists Trevor de Brauw and Laurent Schroeder-Lebec drive the main themes forward, while playing around the central riffs, adding shade and texture. The band loses their handle on the game plan a few times, most notably on "Glimmer" and "Specks of Light;" both songs are more up-tempo and markedly brighter in tone, and are quite tellingly the two weakest tracks on the album.

The most startling aspect of the album are the vocals that the Life and Times' Allen Epley lend to "Final Breath," a first for the band. While blissfully eerie and dreamlike, the track only proves that while vocals are necessary for most bands, that isn't the case with Pelican. Hey, I love me some Yuengling lager, but I'm not going to pour it into my gas tank in the hopes of getting some extra RPMs out of my engine. So all the people crying for Pelican to add a frontman are now free to shut the hell up.

Like it or not, this is where Pelican's at, and likely an indicator of where they're going. "What We All Come to Need" is the album Pelican needed to make, to prove they weren't starting to slip into mediocrity. It turns out what they came to need was to stop screwing around, and get back to doing what they do best.

A-

buy it!