REVIEW: Pilate: For All That's Given, Wasted
Pilate: For All That's Given, Wasted [Wrangled, 2002]
Three words? Give me more.
As the world is inundated with moody rockers in the vein of Coldplay and Muse, anyone with an ear to the ground is bound to ask whether the genre needs another contender. The answer, of course, is yes. It's always yes. As tired as any style may become, with every newcomer comes new potential for innovation, change and development. Case in point: Radiohead, who turned from "Fake Plastic Trees" to "Treefingers", stepping away from guitar anthems and into the glitchy Autechre mud. Toronto's Pilate isn't exactly shaking things up - electric guitars ring and resonate according to familiar, "mope-rock" conventions, and Todd Clark sounds like the evil Canadian twin of Travis' Fran Healy - but this EP is an excellent showcase of their chops, certainly rivaling the majority of the genre, and if nothing else, it's a foundation upon which to build something more startling, more new.
"Drowning Man" opens with bar balladry, Elbow-style, as Clark mutters over strummed guitar and well-measured drum pulses. He sings with confidence and verve, thankfully avoiding pompadour crooning a la Rufus Wainwright. When the song begins in earnest, splashes of guitar weave in and out of each-other, an atmospheric bedrock for Clark's vocal melody. There's a cool, scaled-back climax, then a quiet, lovely cadence. Scattered song fragments that end just a little too soon.
"Mercy" boasts another high, catchy, Travis-style chorus, sung over brushed snares and gentle keyboard tones. It doesn't descend into sappy nonsense however, or become discomfortingly soaked in its melancholy. Most of the song straddles the fence between quiet ballad and rock slow-cooker, but Pilate eventually opts for the latter; in the last minute, backup vocals join a noisy guitar-line to try and kick out a finale. Despite their best efforts, it doesn't quite work out: there's no celebration in the sound, too few layers, too little volume. Though the disc's production is good, it's not great; the sound doesn't scale up or fade away when it needs to, it's pretty consistent in timbre. This is most audible in the sappy, same-sounding "You're All I Need", which is the weakest song of the EP. "Long Gone", which follows, does better: fast, crisp high-hats and heavy bass accelerate the tune under Edge-style guitar licks. "Save Me" does some of the same, although the languid chorus would have benefitted from a layer of banjo or mandolin. The closer, "Alright" knits lonely lyrics with a roaring chorus, a climbing wall of feedback and singing guitars. Though it suffers under some production woes (peaking out in bits), it's by all measures a terrific song, like some lost, great Coldplay b-side.
For All That's Given, Wasted is an excellent effort, and certainly leaves me hopeful that a Canadian band will steal the melancholy crown away from England's Coldplay. The challenge, of course, will be to bring something new to the genre, to demonstrate some true artistic innovation. The Frames did it with their folk-inspired For The Birds, Coldplay may do it on their upcoming LP, but here's hoping that Pilate does it best - and soon, please.