Music Reviews
Sun Coming Down

Ought Sun Coming Down

(Constellation) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

Ought really like to blur the line between caustic irony and blunt sincerity. “It fits okay/Don’t take much/ to make my day”, vocalist Tim Darcy says with plainspoken decisiveness before he goes into something of a controlled tantrum. “Celebration, celebration!”, he repeats with such passionate disdain that you can easily imagine him putting on a wide, earlobe to earlobe grin. Darcy likes to imagine scenarios of societal correctness, as he’s the type of keen observer who likes to keep quiet even if he wishes to call out on everyone publicly. Which is why Sun Coming Down is an all-access head trip into Darcy’s internal monologue; he’s a droll curmudgeon that thinks too many things at once, and he’ll openly reproach with utmost endurance.

It sounds like an unpleasant chore to sit through, and what makes it even more difficult is that Darcy is a particularly unflattering vocalist. He snarls with a high-pitched sound, letting out every razor-tongued remark with a boiling and pronounced acidity. Darcy may seem like that odd fellow that you prefer to avoid altogether, but once you give him a little bit of time you begin to understand what makes him such a compelling performer. In Passionate Turn, he decries he’s given up on love with evident resignation, slurring looove with added emphasis as if he’s trying to do his best David Johansen impersonation. Or how in the title track, he goes into a flippant metaphor about how his neighbor caught a sun that’s “about the size of a beach ball”, right after doubting himself by admitting that he may be talking out of his ass. There’s no open-hearted sentiment that escapes Darcy, with so many amusing and stimulating one-liners - sometimes aleatory and sometimes unusually on point - that there’s hardly any dull or idle moment.

In the year and a half since they released their debut effort More Than Any Other Day, Ought have dramatically segued from affected indie rockers to punk abstractionists. Starting with Darcy himself, whose yelping delivery has taken a darker and more contemptuous slant when it used to be more complaisant. Not to say that a palpable political dynamic also encompasses the majority of Any Other Day, a record that funneled cathartic mathy arrangements with brazen post-punk flourishes, but an insistence to put forth off-key chords and roundabout time signatures throughout Sun Coming Down shows they’ve progressed into a band who’s more attuned with characteristics that have a bearing on dissonance. The album’s focal point, Beautiful Blue Sky, slowly unfurls into an interweaving lattice of lithe guitar passages and end-of-fretboard guitar picking as Darcy contemplates on the inherent delusion of living a life that assigns value to the virtues of materialism and standard, old fashioned ideas of living. Darcy chooses to stress specific words, like new development, condo, and oil freighter, with desensitized emotion, asking his listeners a series of questions (How's the family / How's the church? / How's the job?) as if embodying a surveying politician who’s making sure his community is happy with the highly-desirable pleasantries of everyday, middle-class living.

Darcy constantly questions motive and ethical behavior, altering his barbed wit with abrupt surges that make us wonder if he’s really fine when he exclaims, “I feel alright”. Though he repeatedly answers yes! with emphatic glee throughout the record, it’s the music’s jarring transitions that otherwise prove that his cynicism is taken from insight and not necessarily impulsive anger. The band seems to be on the verge of spontaneously combusting in The Combo, which puts forth a jarring clutter of eddying melodic textures like a sped-up Mission of Burma. On the Line begins quiet enough with a tenebrous array of slow, descending keys and cryptic atonal guitar layers as Darcy lays out a series of incongruous poetic imagery in his best gnarly, shrill voice, and not before long the band goes into a manic, rippling exchange of driving, overlapping instrumentation.

Sun Coming Down constantly engages and enthralls with an odd sense of humor, cementing Ought as one of the few contemporary post-punk acts that seamlessly merge frantic irreverence with feral intelligence. Judging by the album’s overall coal-bearing constitution, it first sets the impression that it has tempered the more overtly complex structures of their debut effort, though Darcy and his bandmates are really seeking for purpose by placing its fuming noise right in the foreground. Ought defy conformity as much as they fear it, and it’s in Darcy’s tormented instability that we witness someone who’s struggling to conserve a shred of authenticity in this present age; a time in which, unfortunately, we’re constantly getting coerced into embracing self-interest over sympathy. “I am mobile/ I am modern”, his voice curls with mocking satisfaction, as if he’s trapped in some kind of social standard he can’t get out of…or resist.