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Album Review
Big Echo

Big Echo
by The Morning Benders

Rough Trade

Review Date
Reviewed by
Lukas Clark-Memler

The Morning Benders’ vocalist and founder Christopher Chu said in a recent interview that he would like to “pile 50 people into the studio… and just blow it out”. Welcome to Big Echo - Big ideas, big drums, big vocals and big production. Big is a word that encapsulates quite accurately what The Morning Benders were attempting to create with their latest release.

After a few years in musical limbo the band were taken under the wing of producer Chris Taylor, who due to the astronomical success of Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest helped turn The Morning Benders career to gold. But there is such a thing as too much production. The songs are too tight, too well rehearsed. There is too much layering and too many effects added to the drums. Whether it is the fault of the producer trying to create the next Veckatimest - or the fault of the band attempting to sacrifice their authenticity for a gold record, Big Echo is ‘too much’ in so many ways.

With that said, a few tracks stand out from the otherwise generic mix. “Excuses” is a timeless and melodically enriching achievement that is a fantastic way to start the album. With an early 60s feel, the track sets the tone for what is to come. From the sharp guitar chords that split open "Hand Me Downs," the multi-layered swooning of "Stitches," and the hymn-like, gentle vocals on ending track "Sleeping In", this vast production fills out Big Echo far more than their rather sparse previous album Talking Through Tin Cans.

With Big Echo we see what happens when you “pile 50 people into the studio”. There is definitely a lot going on, but the raw Wall of Sound is never achieved. All the kinks have been smoothed out to a point of boring perfection. Big Echo’s aim for transcendence is so deliberate and palpable, that it comes off as manufactured sentiment. There is no youthful energy, angst or emotion. There are hardly any hooks or catchy choruses. But I still have faith in The Morning Benders. They’ve shown they are capable of vast changes in style and sound and for their next release I would like to see them strip back and succumb to their instincts – and not a corporate record label.

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