They Built this City on Complex Genre Integration

It's so vague! It must be artistic!It?s hard these days for a band to maintain any kind of mystique. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and the preponderance of immediately accessible online zines has whittled down the rock star persona to lines in a label-scribed biography, for better or worse, and now when an act comes out and tries to withhold information about themselves, it seems more like they?re keeping secrets just to be obnoxious than like they?re full of any kind of mystery. Where are City of Ships from? I don?t know. They won?t tell anything more than ?United States.?

Something else they pride themselves on is being difficult to classify. The trio — Eric Jernigan, Andrew Jernigan and Rob Smith ? play out this cross-genre notion of indefinability on their full-length Translation Loss debut, Look What God Did to Us. And it?s true, they incorporate sounds from across a range of genres into a self-aware brew of sound, but it?s not nearly as difficult to nail down as their point of origin. Emo, post-hardcore and post-metal are the main ingredients, and from their melding, City of Ships winds up with an aggressive and esoteric crunch that more than anything else seems entirely conscious of what it?s doing. That is, everything here feels on purpose, thought out.

For a band?s debut, this is an impressive feat, but the downside is that with such rampant calculation, the spirit of spontaneity is practically nil. Longest cut (5:01) and centerpiece track ?March of the Slaves? is the album?s high point, but there are varying degrees of execution throughout, that just happens to be where the approach works best. Even so, the plotted feeling that pervades might be the result of overworking; I find myself wondering if City of Ships might be better off doing less at any given moment. Even the atmospheric parts have a sheen to them.

Here they are. (Photo by Nicole Kibert)A way to counteract this in the future — if the band would be interested to do such a thing — might be to record live, or at least mostly live. The quality of the production needn?t suffer, but they might be able to work against some of the flawlessness that comes across on Look What God Did to Us.

Nonetheless, City of Ships have begun to carve a niche for themselves in the currently-bloated post-whathaveyou marketplace. With some growth and progression, not to mention their road-time, which is already considerable, their sound will doubtless congeal into something even more individual. For now, they?re not so outlandishly different, but might stand out thanks to their post-hardcore melodicism and the range of influences in their arsenal. Oh yeah, and they?re from Florida. Mystery be damned.

City of Ships on MySpace

Translation Loss

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