These Arms Are Snakes – Tail Swallower and Dove

4 out of 5

Label: Suicide Squeeze

Produced by: Chris Common

As you’re aware by now, I’m kind of an idiot, and will buy music unheard based on so-and-so’s in the band, or so-and-so produced it. Such was the case with These Arms Are Snakes’ first EP, given the sticker on its cover talking about Botch and Minus the Bear bonafides and whatnot. I did like it quite a bit, but it also had an underwhelming elements to it. The same was true for their followup, Oxeneers – an amazing intro, and unevenness thereafter. By the time of Easter, I wasn’t so on board anymore, and it passed through my player into the ‘to be sold’ pile. But, as stated on that review, a followup spin made the album click, and suddenly I was listening to the thing non-stop. Flaws still existed in the previous releases, but I’d grown new appreciation for the group, and those works as a result.

So: not only do I get to be cool and claim to have been on the ground floor, I was also stupid hyped when Tail Swallower and Dove was released, and not yet purely online with my purchases at that point, I have a clear memory of making a side trip from my weekly comic trip to Midtown to Virgin Records, and not even getting out of the store before the packaging was off and I’d popped the thing into my CD player (yes, I still was toting one around then; I waited a bit to go digital with my whole library).

I know most of us music obsessives have experienced the letdown from expectations. Thus, rarer – and cherished – are those times when expectations are met. And Tail Swallower hit that mark: it is fair to say that I have probably spun the first five songs on this album (Ethric Double in particular) more than any album in my collection. Though there are ten songs here…

TS&D is an amazing record, and a solid one. But it is, perhaps, a slight step back from Easter in a sense – it’s not as experimental; not as vicious. It combines some of the increased scope of that album with the more streamlined hardcore of Oxeneers to craft some of the most precise, and rocking post-hardcore tracks of all time. Some songs – such as Ethric – do hit on the contemplative, visual nature of those on the previous disc, but a lot is in line with that musical shift: it’s a bit more streamlined, and accessible. The result of this is an album that’s more consistent than Easter, but not necessarily as interesting. Ethric Double is a notable peak: a 7-minute slowburn. And it’s hard for the disc to get back up to speed thereafter, even though I know the remaining songs front to back; after this point, the disc’s various approaches of indie-flecked hardcore have been exampled, in their most affecting and precise forms. The back half is more evidence of the same. Without the comparison of Easter, I’d probably be look past this as a “flaw,” except that sophomore album made every song feel like a weird and woozy event, whereas Tail Swallower is merely concerned with rocking hard and keeping the pace going.

Being the best makes for high standards. And I’d say that this step back, as I termed it, was probably a wise one, as opposed to swinging for the fences once more and whiffing it; at least this way, TAAS were able to hone the sound that was a more logical extension of their starting point, delivering the ultimate version of that, and gifting me with 5 tracks that I can still put on at any time, any place, any mood.