“a cosmic, philosophical treatise disguised as an indie rock record.” – Pitchfork
“Wanna wake up wanting to listen to records / But those old feelings elude me / I raise a toast to the rock n' roll ghost,” sings Cymbals Eat Guitars frontman Joseph D’Agostino on the hyper-adrenalized “XR,” which sounds like a Tonight’s the Night outtake recorded at triple speed, with its braying harmonica and spitfire vocal delivery. It’s the track that perhaps best captures the spirit of the band’s third LP, LOSE, one of coping with abject loss and grief by rediscovering what you’ve always loved, as difficult as it may be—the redemptive power of music.
For D’Agostino, this entailed coming to terms with his best friend and musical collaborator Benjamin High, who passed away suddenly seven years ago, just as Cymbals Eat Guitars began recording in earnest. “LOSE is a very apropos title because it refers not only to losing Ben, but also it's about a sort of nostalgia, a longing for a time when music meant everything to you and your friends, and it seemed like one great rock record could change everyone's life the way it changed yours,” says D’Agostino.
“It's about being in mourning for your long-held belief that music could literally change the world. That's the contradiction at the heart of LOSE... You're disillusioned, but somehow you can do nothing else but rail against that feeling mightily and try, once again, to make a record that makes you and everyone else ‘wake up wanting to listen to records’.” And indeed, the band, rounded out by bassist Matthew Whipple, keyboardist Brian Hamilton, and drummer Andrew Dole, alongside producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile), do little wallowing. This is a raucous affair, an Irish Wake, ultimately rooted in nothing less than a celebration of just being alive. What’s perhaps most impressive about LOSE is the manner in which D’Agostino comes clean with his emotions, tackling seemingly ineffable mourning without equivocation.
“There are no $5 words that you'll have to pull up dictionary.com for... some of the lyrics are directly confessional. Very open, no obfuscation,” he explains. “I lost my dear friend a while ago and I've sort of been addressing it in song for most of my career, though you probably couldn't really tell until now. It’s just a direct expression of grief. I figured if I confronted it head-on on record it'd make for some interesting music.”