The Best Songs Of 2015: Tenement, “Crop Circle Nation”
Posted on December 14, 2015
December 14, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey
One of the defining narratives of 2015 in the punk scene revolved around the initial excitement at the prospect of a long-awaited new album from the great Tenement, and then the subsequent bewilderment at the band’s decision to make said album a 23 song, 74-minute double LP.
Bands just don’t make double albums in this day and age, and punk bands certainly don’t. It’s one of the rules of punk, you know, that genre of music with all the rules to follow?
Much of the handwringing over Predatory Headlights revolved around its relative lack of superficial musical diversity. Yeah, there’s the chamber-esque “Theme Of The Cuckoo,” the lo-fi austerity of “Ants + Flies” and “You Keep Me Cool,” the ballad “Whispering Kids,” the near ten-minute, largely instrumental “A Frightening Place For Normal People,” the…wait a second, this thing is pretty diverse! Tenement took a lot of chances here. Fans often decry bands who write the same songs over and over again, yet, here we are. What do we want, really? Do we even know? Do we want our punk bands to take risks or be better editors?
It’s hard to say whether this notion is a byproduct of our shortened attention spans, some kind of weird fan entitlement, or something else entirely. But in addition to those aforementioned risks, Tenement put a bunch of really great rock songs all over Predatory Headlights, too. The hooks of “Crop Circle Nation” are as undeniable as a Steph Curry 3-pointer, and as the second track on Headlights following de facto intro “Theme of the Cuckoo,” it sets the tone for the rest of the album and shit, is that tone warm. Listen to the way those guitars hug everything around them, including your ears. The way those high-pitched background vocals dance around Amos Pitsch’s own singing without ever really interacting with them add some unconventional character to an otherwise fairly straightforward, catchy song. There’s a breakdown toward the song’s end in which Eric Mayer’s drumming becomes frenetic, hard-hitting and unpredictable, while Pitsch’s soloing briefly, excitedly goes off the rails before the band snaps back into the overarching structure of the song. And that chorus, with the lyric ‘we belong somewhere else’ repeated ad infinitum, is perfect. It’s a lyric so simple, so draped in vagaries but also so straightforward, that it could be interpreted by listeners and applied to their own lives in a thousand possible ways. That’s a masterclass in pop songwriting, kids.