Monday, August 4, 2014

David Kilgour Brings Us Guitar Glory In End Times Undone: A Review Of The New Record

It's been a long time since that last wonderful David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights record and now David and his crew are back with the even better End Times Undone, out August 5 on Merge.

Where the last album was dour, or so it seemed, End Times Undone is expansive -- those soaring guitar runs on the previously released "Christopher Columbus", for example. And while David Kilgour continues to indulge his love of The Byrds -- opener "Like Rain" -- he also nods more than once in the direction of The Clean -- "Lose Myself In Sound", for instance.

While The Clean are going on tour in the U.S. this summer -- (I'm tremendously bummed that I'll miss their Baltimore gig in mid-August as I'm still in Hong Kong with my wife until very late August!) -- David Kilgour takes a few musical risks here that pay off and take him in new directions from his previous work. Still, somehow Kilgour and The Heavy Eights manage to provide a few hints of The Clean even in the course of hopping around in a few different genres and noisy styles. There are times on End Times Undone where it feels as if -- more than ever before -- Kilgour has one foot in the Sixties. There's the magnificently sinister "Crow", for example. All mean riffs like Velvet Underground scoring Easy Rider, the track explicitly recalls Nuggets-era greats.

That all-too-short tune segues into "Dropper" which sounds like The Band and The Clean simultaneously, the guitar riffs coming down like sheets of heavy rain. As Kilgour squalls like classic Neil Young, the band keeps things percolating behind him in a near-jazzy frenzy. Aces!

"Comin' On" may be the most obvious acknowledgement of The Clean on this record. Part early R.E.M., it's still all Clean-y, to coin a new adjective. The cut is like a slowed down "Getting Older", more surefooted middle-aged reflection than twentysomething angst. A downright glorious Dylan-meets-Peter Buck bridge carries the song towards its conclusion. A real highlight of this record.

My praise of Mr. Kilgour is not meant to slight the solid players on End Times Undone. The Heavy Eights -- guitarist Tony de Raad, bassist Tom Bell, and drummer Taane Tokona -- anchor these cuts and provide Kilgour room to soar. That's not to say that these cats don't soar as well; the jazz-influenced contributions from the rhythm section and the extra guitar layer are fantastic additions to the already many charms of End Times Undone.

David Kilgour and The Heavy Eights have crafted a great record here. Somehow he's expanded his signature sound while offering bits that should please diehard fans of the New Zealand sound. And that simultaneous risk-taking and acknowledgement of his past is no mean feat. I think fans of The Clean will be pleased as this record feels lighter and more open than the last one from Kilgour and his Heavy Eights -- if that makes any sense -- and so it feels more familiar like Kilgour's past classic stuff. At the same time, his guitar playing here is amazing -- whether channeling Richard Thompson, Neil Young, or even Robert Fripp, David Kilgour unfurls solo after solo, riff after riff. Listen to the noise he unleashes on "Down The Tubes". The song is trippy but anchored by the supporting players even as it sounds like Kilgour's world is ending.

The chiming closer "Some Things You Don't Get Back" ends the record as it began: in a flurry of Byrds riffs with Clean hooks.

The wonderful End Times Undone by David Kilgour and The Heavy Eights is out on August 5 via Merge Records. Get it now and see David Kilgour on tour this summer either with this band or in The Clean.