3 out of 5
Label: Lookout Records
Produced by: Evening and Alex Newport
Here-and-then-gone bands are often a frustrating puzzle. The variants of this where various people congeal (perhaps from previous endeavors) for one or two releases and then split off into other bands is part of the history of many bands; the version where heretofore unheard-ofs get the time and money together for a single album, then seemingly go back to their day jobs thereafter are more rare. You can sometimes track down a 7″ or single that paints a picture of at least a few years during which the group was active, but there are sometimes – like the 2004 release Other Victorians, by Evening – when it’s really, truly, just here-and-gone. I’m guessing, had I worked at Lookout Records, I may have seen a live show or heard a demo tape, but by and large, this album was it. When you stumble across these things as they’re released, without knowing the lack of output to come, when the music’s good, it can feel like a blessing.
And a good portion of Other Victorians – maybe a mini-album’s worth of tracks – is very good. I’ve read a handful of semi-disparaging reviews of the album, critiquing its ‘sounds like’ stylings or how certain aspects of it don’t seem to mesh well with one another, but the early 2000s were a mix of genres all becoming very radio-ready: metal, indie, electro, all seemed poised to be ‘the next big thing,’ preceding an era when there really wouldn’t end up being Big Things anymore; Evening picked and chose from several 90s alternative and 00s formative independents to carve out their sound, and then executed it on a precise balance between loose and polished, such that it came across as neither over-considered or sloppy and was, overall, quite unique. At moments sounding like Intepol, then slip-sliding back through earlier Matador acts, with dashes of alterna-rock flourishes tossed in to keep an edge, this was not something that I expected from Lookout Records – normally a punk-leaning label – and was also a disc that made me eager to see what came next.
In retrospect, with nothing next having come, it softens the spotlight I’d put on the album a bit, and exposes why we might not’ve seen much else from Evening: as mentioned, there’s really only about 2/3rd of an album here, with the back third of the disc taking a sharp dive into tedium, as though the fronting tracks were all the group really had the energy for. I could suggest sequencing things differently, divvying up the down beats, but that would sacrifice how satisfying the first set of songs are together. The album really just ends with wimpy instrumental Wither In Bloom; as a coda, this would have worked, but as a segue into songs completely stripped of the genre blending that preceded them, it really drags down the experience, and ‘helps’ to highlight the vague lyrics that plague the whole album, as well as the group’s inability to end a song properly.
Other releases could have softened this, allowing me to look back and rave about how Evening started out. As a standalone, though, while I stand by the opening songs as truly crossing a bridge between indie rock and pop without the radio-ready sheen of a lot of what was being released at the time, when the group runs out of original ideas for the last 5 or so songs, it drops the disc back down from a missing gem to a worthwhile used bin find.