Review: O Emperor – Vitreous
Published on August 10th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Even when “Holy Fool” was our single of the week, we couldn’t have envisaged O Emperor’s second album Vitreous to be such a sprawling, psychedelic pop odyssey.
Opener “Grandmother Mountain” starts like a tender, slightly silly sort of Brian Wilson piano trot complete with plinks of picked violins and all sorts of delightful elements converging. The drums start stomping furiously, are waltzed over by harmonising ’70s fuzz guitar, then rained upon by fast-picked mandolin…before it all goes back to the start…
…and then…look, it just goes from strength to strength, alright? Everything about it is ace, right down to the measured vocals and lyrics like “I can smell the shit in the city air”. Those drums rumble astonishingly as the track reaches its glorious conclusion, and Rocksucker’s attention has not been grabbed so much as swiped comedically by the neck with one of those cartoon crooks.
Next up is “Holy Fool”, of which we originally said:
We must confess to almost wanting to dislike this for the band’s GY!BE-making-you-think-of name and the initial, all-too-typical marriage of pounding drums of driving, monotone guitar…but it goes on to be this week’s best single by weaving an utterly irresistible form of harmony-infused psych-pop over the top of its two and a half minutes.
Our curiosity was certainly piqued then – in fact, we were really quite taken with it – but like we said, it gave little indication of the joys abundant within Vitreous. As it is, O Emperor have turned in one of this year’s very finest LPs; you’ve just got to hope the world takes notice.
“Whitener (Part 1)” is like…bloody hell, what is it like? So much yet so little…so many colours…so much going on…so, so good. Anything but so-so, come to think of it. We’re still only three tracks in.
“Brainchild” slips some lysergic fingerpicking into the mix, along with some more of those gorgeously overlapping Beach Boys/ELO harmonies. It reminds a little of HAL’s The Time The Hour album of last year, but drifting through space. We don’t know what then sets off the danger alert, but it comes in the form of a Super Furry Animals-esque rasping synth outro.
Brilliance continues to spew forth like a burst water main: “Contact” ushers in the tumult before “Minutet” guides us gently back into twinkly SMiLE-o-rama on “Minuet”, the songwriting so rich and sophisticated yet all the more adorable for it. That’s special, that is.
“How long have I been sleeping? / Where has everybody gone?” asks “Land of the Living”, rubbing its eyes before skipping off with a fuzzy stomp, while the swirling “Soft in the Head” makes us want to write the words “sepia-tinted super balladry”. So, you know, there you go.
Curtain-closer “This is It” brings to mind early-to-mid-’90s Flaming Lips, which is to say it’s utterly, utterly magnificent. Did we happen to mention that we like O Emperor’s new album Vitreous? And dare we utter the word ‘masterpiece’?
Let’s see how it flies when we revisit it for the end-of-year polling, but at this stage we’d expect O Emperor to chart pretty darn highly. At the very least it’s a masterpiece of self-recording, which is apparently how this went down. Mind well and truly blown.
Vitreous will be released on August 19th through Kf Records.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!