Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Ok, check that. Real Estate are every bit as simple as they seem.
But most things are not, and in my opinion we have the city of New York to blame for this, with its inexorable hype machine surrounding seemingly every newly released album. Whereas Real Estate “are a deeply suburban band,” as Jayson Greene of pitchfork so eloquently put it. But for this reason it’s exceedingly hard to imagine them ever being ironic, or rather, ever SUCCESSFULLY being ironic. Yes, consider this your first red flag.
Well, I’ll give you the good news first. The good news is that ONE member of this band, the person singing whether it happens to be Martin Courtney or Alex Bleeker (I must confess a shamed inability to tell the two apart) actually sounds influenced by music, whatsoever. Think Deerhunter, Elliott Smith, The Dodos and The Beatles (circa “Long, Long Long”), in roughly that order. What’s more, and even better, the lead singer almost always sounds like an actual living person.
And to be sure, they are, but boy are they sick of making music. Or… boy, did they craft their defining career statement on Atlas, and then this is just going through the motions, perhaps a deliberate attempt to pi** off the hype machine (track two is called “Serve the Song,” betokening certainly motifs of rote commercial obligation in music).
The bad news is that if I didn’t have a track-switching device for purposes of album opener “Darling” (or if I weren’t cheaply reviewing this album by listening to all the songs for free on youtube, more accurately), I would be bored to the level of like being in the Cask of Amontillado.
There’s Real Estate, in all matching outfits on their iTunes photo: and that’s exactly what this album is, it’s crushing, mind-deadening uniformity—to each other, to their own past, and to what critics expect of them.
And I’m usually not one to say that an album is bad BECAUSE it so closely resembles a given band’s yore, but come on, this is REAL ESTATE. They’re not exactly the Mahavishnu fu**in’ Orchestra, in terms of complexity. These songs march ahead methodically with apathetic regularity, which may, may, not be such a problem except for the fact that I’m pretty sure Courtney is using both the same guitar, and amp, as well as technique (he** even riffs, probably) as he did on Atlas. Do we blame him? No, but this is a new album, not an anniversary tour. We’ll save that for an equally exhilarating moment in a couple years.