Pelican's Sketchy Metal

The Chicago band leads a pack of wayward, ambiguous, faux-intellectual faux-headbangers

What We All Come to Need is more, and consequently less, of the same. They've become more comfortable with reeling in the ambition, which means the listener gets mostly seven-minute versions of what Pelican's ideal, Explosions in the Sky, couldn't manage to cut to 10. Long derided as "the poor man's Isis," Pelican actually usurp their former labelmates' made-for-TV appeal, but EITS, of course, usurped them both, graduating from writing music for films that didn't exist to soundtracking Friday Night Lights, which did. Grounding deceptively ecstatic music in a film larded with Americana pablum but hailed repeatedly as culturally significant is not only indicative of the fatal atrophy of "popular imagination," it also shows consumers' unwillingness to accept the authentic, reaching for the numbing reality of the familiar, over and over again.

That Pelican pride themselves on being hard to pigeonhole shows that cognitive dissonance isn't solely the province of political pundits. Neurosis were always one to lay the deep dread on thickly, via broad brushstrokes heavy with Dickean sci-fi paranoia. They alone can't be faulted for two-bit mimics and likely never imagined their compositional approach would be used so effectively as a springboard to Pelican's (and Baroness', Mastodon's, and Torche's) overwrought musical "catharsis." Sure, Pelican may be simply feigning the emotion they try so valiantly to communicate. But for fans of this sort of fake metal, that fakery—and not the real emotion it pantomimes—is what they've all strangely come to need.

Pelican play the Highline Ballroom November 30

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