Closure in Moscow burst onto the post-hardcore scene back in 2008 with The Penance and the Patience, a six-song showcase of highly technical musicianship. However, contrary to the popular style at the time, their furious riffs and blasting drums didn’t come from metalcore, but rather, from psychedelic and progressive rock. Their love for psychedelia became even more apparent on their debut full-length, First Temple, possibly the best Mars Volta album that The Mars Volta never released.
Pink Lemonade sees Closure in Moscow releasing a full-on psychedelic rock album, eschewing almost all traces of post-hardcore from their sound. It would seem like a natural progression for the band, right? Weirdly enough, it feels unnatural, and dare I say, even a little insincere.
Pink Lemonade is a far more lighthearted affair than its predecessors. The Penance and the Patience and First Temple were super-earnest, perhaps even to the point of embarrassment. Pink Lemonade sees Closure in Moscow not taking themselves so seriously. There’s very little dark, pounding minor-key rock here; it’s all bright melodies and blues scales. I mean, this is an album that features songs called “Dinosaur Boss Battle” and “Happy Days.”
The problem is that this comes across as posturing, as if Closure in Moscow is deliberately trying to distance themselves from their past. The album has goofy musical interludes and semi-satirical lyrics that make it seem like the band thinks they’re above it all, which would be okay if they hadn’t recorded super-serious, earnest songs like “I’m a Ghost of Twilight” and “Had to Put it in the Soil” just five years ago. Closure in Moscow seemed more comfortable as a post-hardcore band. Perhaps post-hardcore is boring now and the genre has been bled dry, but at least it’s not draped in ten layers of hipster irony.
This unearned sense of superiority casts a pall over what is often a very interesting album, musically speaking. Even within the realm of psychedelia, the band manages to find a great deal of variety. The title track has a sort of oneiric beauty about it, while “Seeds of Gold,” the album’s best track, has an alternative-dance-meets-Santana vibe. Later on the album, “Beckon Fire” displays a prominent Eastern influence, while “Happy Days” draws from good ol’-fashioned American rock ‘n roll, even verging on rockabilly.
Guitarists Mansur Zennelli and Michael Barrett really outdo themselves on this album, playing some of their most technical riffs and impressive solos yet. The solo in “Dinosaur Boss Battle” is a highlight. New bassist Duncan Millar is a welcome addition, as he adds heft and weight to songs without overshadowing the work of the guitarists. “Mauerbauertraurigkeit” is a great example of his tastefully restrained work. Unfortunately, the drumming and singing have taken a step back as compared to previous Closure in Moscow efforts. New drummer Salvatore Aidone simply can’t match former drummer Beau McKee’s intensity and technical flair, and lead singer Christopher de Cinque has traded in his high-pitched croon for a snotty snarl. It’s not bad, but one of the appeals of Closure in Moscow’s older music was the juxtaposition of de Cinque’s gentler voice with the rest of the band’s more aggressive guitar and drum work. de Cinque goes back to his regular voice in “Mauerbauertraurigkeit,” and it’s a welcome change of pace that gives him a chance to show off his impressive range.
Overall, there’s a strong display of musicianship on Pink Lemonade, and it’s refreshing to hear this when so many bands out there are content to write a bunch of three-chord rock and call it a day. But at times, Pink Lemonade is a bit too indulgent, letting songs go on for far too long. “That Brahmatron Song” and “Dinosaur Boss Battle” feel nearly interminable, and aside from a cool extended intro, the full version of “The Church of the Technochrist” adds nothing of value to the single edit. The album really could have done with some trimming.
Still, though, the biggest problem with the album is its posturing and subject matter. Closure in Moscow’s foray into pure psychedelia feels too deliberate and calculated. Gone are the sincere songs about relationships and politics; now the band is focused on the topics typically associated with psychedelia: sensuality and hallucination. As de Cinque sings incomprehensible verses about “ladies” and “babies,” it becomes clear that Pink Lemonade isn’t really about anything. It only engages with its subject matter on a surface level. The album could have been an interesting exploration of the intersection between sexuality, technology, and religion and how the sacred and profane interact in modern society – and to be fair, in “The Church of the Technochrist,” it comes close – but most of the time, the band is content to sound like a bunch of horny, video-game-obsessed teenage boys who just discovered /r/atheism.
Maybe I’m being overly harsh. Pink Lemonade is often sublime, from a musical standpoint, and it’s almost definitely going to make my top 20 for the year. But I can’t help but feel disappointed in the album’s overall artistic direction. The entire thing seems like a big joke. How else to explain why the album ends with a weird homage to Japanese video game music? It’s a nonsensical capper on what is often a nonsensical album. Closure in Moscow is capable of making some really great music. If only they weren’t so scared to wear their hearts on their sleeves again.