“Come See” is a brilliant album opener. It’s essentially shoegaze executed exactly how it should be (in my eyes, anyway) – sounds bleeding into eachother, drums thudding as a muffled presence in the bellies of feedback giants, but a definite sense of melody and song structure hanging over the entire experience. For a genre often guilty of sounding too lax and semi-conscious, “Come See” is ferocious and addictively alive.
But this explosive introduction leaves the rest of Common Era sounding drained. Many of the remaining tracks are perfectly listenable, steadily surging forward on the locomotive rhythm of programmed drums and free-flowing fuzzy keyboards, but a large portion of Common Era feels swamped by the excitement and sheer volume of that first track, setting a towering benchmark that the weary and spent duo of Belong seem incapable of reaching again.
“Keep Still” is the only other point at which the record really penetrates. The band ditch the recurrent drum loops and opt for a woozy distortion symphony, billowing out like a beautiful, light-bending mirage, driven by some gorgeous chord changes and the haunting phantom echoes of the central vocal performance. How the band can be content with the poppy drift that dominates Common Era, when they’re capable of astonishing swells of ambience such as this, is entirely beyond me.
It’s not a bad record by any means – just a slightly frustrating listen, in the way that the glimmers of brilliance are just too occasional. Tracks such as “A Walk” feel like distracted album-fillers to me – mere fragments of build-up and aftermath surrounding those fleeting moments at which Belong pour absolutely everything into their craft.