Album: Have Cake
Release date: August 16
Rating (Skip, Stream, or Buy): Buy
Local show: August 22 at the High Dive with Brier Rose and Kids and Animals. The show starts at 8 p.m. and costs $6.
Have Cake is anything but a rich, moist piece of sugar-frosted fluff. It's got at least as much weird as the band's home base of Portland takes pride in. But Symmetry/Symmetry doesn't go weird without good reason, and Have Cake is a refreshing melodic experiment in an age of so much noisy, overindulgent rock.
At its roots, it's soaring '90s Britpop. If Radiohead comparisons are allowed, then they're inevitable. Twisting melodies and anxious piano lines build the core, and even the twitchiest of drumming won't take away from that. But despite their melodies and hooks, none of these songs really make good singles. The tracks succeed more as a package (the band will even be playing the album straight-through for their release show), and without context, the howling, Muse-esque "apocalypse lite" of songs like "We Are Not Who We Say We Are" feels a little trite. But the best songs use experimentation in a way that flips the audience's expectations on its head, and that Symmetry/Symmetry does--whether it's an unexpected breakdown or the way the first verse of "Have Cake/Eat It Too" sounds more like a bridge.
Good experimentation plays games with the audiences, rather than just giving in to the band's own attention-deficit musical curiosities. Where so many new bands have taken to hyper-production and sleeping around with as many genres as they can, Symmetry/Symmetry knows where their sound is centered and keeps the games to their rhythms and writing.