Elsinore made like it was Christmas in July when they announced on the web last month that they were just about done with their first collection of songs since their masterful debut, Yes Yes Yes (2010).
I, for one, nearly fell off my chair at the surprising prospect of new Elsinore tunes. Then nearly fell off my chair — again — when they announced a record release show at Subterranean scheduled for the not-too-distant future. Unless I’m mistaken, their August 12 show in support of Life Inside an Elephant will be their first gig in the city since their August 2010 headliner at Lincoln Hall. I do hope these once-a-year shows don’t become pattern!
So hot damn, I’ve got some new Elsinore music to discuss!
Life Inside an Elephant EP — four tracks, bookended by “Life Inside an Elephant” and then a remixed version of the same song — is a pretty compilation. “Ultraviolence,” I dare say, verges on angelic with its harp accompaniment and supporting vocals from female pipes I can’t place.
But I do want to start with “Life Inside an Elephant,” though, because that one packs the most punch and, I think, is the song I have the most to say about.
Had Elsinore stretched the tune out a few more minutes, “Life Inside an Elephant” would have risen from “great” — an OK space to begin with, anyway — to something beyond that: Momentous, distinguished, phenomenal. Whatever’s appropriate. This isn’t to say “Life Inside an Elephant” doesn’t feel significant. Quite the contrary actually. But the decision to dig into Ryan’s orgasmic wails — I’ll get to that — at the two-minute mark feels completely premature. I would have loved — loved! — for more build up, lyrically driven or not. Perhaps the dudes can make it up for me at the live show.
You see, for me, “Life Inside an Elephant” is about first experiences. And even though Ryan is clear to pinpoint the bedroom as the location in question, there’s enough vagueness to “Life Inside an Elephant” to suggest that other places could be substituted.
I mean, just scan over the genius:
There’s no going back
You are here and this is really happening
You’re standing right there
Is this going just the way you imagined it
From the smell in the air
To the look on your face
That second graph totally captures what it’s like to re-remember where you’re at as you’re in the throes of something ungodly meaningful: Do I look OK?Do I feel OK?Is this what I expected?Is it OK if it isn’t?What have I done?Will I be all right? You know, the questions just pile on — one on top of the other — and all you’re left with, besides that warm, pillowy main course of overwhelming feeling, is the idea to push on or, well, not. Go big or go home. In the case of our person in “Life Inside an Elephant,” you push on, damn it!
There’s sweat in my eyes
You think you can do something about that
There’s a little bit of light
Creeping through the cracks around the door
And then I close my eyes, and remember
The way your heart slows, in December
And how you metabolize
And squint your eyes
All this life outside this little room…
And then BOOM! Ryan pulls the trigger on the brief EP’s best moment. Him losing himself in wails, like a celebration of orgasm — or orgasm itself. Or, tamer, jubilation for “success” — in whatever way is meaningful for you.
“Life Inside an Elephant” is wonderful, really. Yet I stand by the idea that its run-time is shorter than it has to be. If I’m right, if “Life Inside an Elephant” is about experience, then delay is fine. There’s no harm in withholding payoff — sometimes weighty subjects beg for breathing room.
The next two tracks are remixed versions — Chamber Mixes, specifically — of what will likely end up on the Life Inside an Elephant full-length. Is Chamber just a fun name, or does it refer to the accompanying string instruments? I do hope the former, because the violins and such add richness to the pieces. I don’t think they’d be as affecting without them.
Of the two — they’ve got more in common with each other than with the title track — “Ultraviolence” might be better. I remember Ryan introducing it at that Lincoln Hall performance, but that was some time ago and couldn’t have been as beautiful as it here on the EP. Unlike “Life Inside an Elephant,” I’m less concerned with its words. Not really by choice, but more so because every time I listen to it — I repeat: every time I listen to it — I can’t help but totally lose myself in the arrangements. That harp! Gosh it just sparkles. Couple that with _____’s vocals — an opposite-sex voice that keeps up with Ryan no problem — and man, that’s just quality.
Elsinore rounds out the EP with a sleepy remix of “Life Inside an Elephant.” I’ll be honest here: Remixes really aren’t my thing. Try as I do, I usually can’t muster the patience for them, and that’s what happened to me here. Had Elsinore went faster with the redux, then maybe we’d be in business — maybe — but their mix is sedating, and concentrated in noise. The best parts about the original “Life Inside an Elephant” — that flailing and wailing, for instance — gets washed out in the hullabaloo.
Again, I’m not the best source for reviewing remixes.
Thankfully, what turned out to be my least favorite track also was, I think, EP filler. The three that play prior to it are a) far stronger, and b) plenty of indicator that Yes Yes Yes wasn’t some one-off special.
- Elsinore, based in Champaign, is: Ryan Groff (guitar/vocals/songwriter), Dave Pride (drums/vocals), Mark Woolwine (keys/vocals), Chris Eitel (bass/vocals).
- Check out my esctatic review of Yes Yes Yes.
- As well, read my review of their August 2010 show at Lincoln Hall w/ Canasta and The Bears of Blue River.
- Elsinore’s record release show in Chicago will be celebrated at Subterranean on August 12 w/ Village and Minor Characters. Tickets are $10 in advance/$12 day of show.
Try before you buy! Elsinore kindly Bandcamp’d their new EP. Listen: