For some reason, Sunny Day Real Estate's 1998 album How It Feels to Be Something On was treated as if it were a one-time-only reunion, 10 new songs found while the members of the band sifted through the ashes of a long-dead group. And, in a way, that was true: They had only gotten together to decide on a track listing for a rarities compilation. Nothing special, just a few B-sides and unreleased songs, something to quell the cult following that had only grown stronger since the band members went their separate ways after putting out 1994's Diary and 1995's posthumously released Sunny Day Real Estate. In the same studio again for the first time in several years, singer-guitarist Jeremy Enigk, guitarist Daniel Hoerner, and drummer William Goldsmith (and, initially, original bassist/current Foo Fighter Nate Mendel) realized they'd rather create some new loose ends rather than spend any more time tying up old ones.
Contrary to popular opinion, How It Feels to Be Something On didn't get Sunny Day Real Estate out of their system. If anything, it gave them a new place to start, a different conversation to keep going. Now happily a trio--after a string of bassists came and went, attempting to replace Mendel, Enigk pulled double duty on The Rising Tide--the band that appears on The Rising Tide is markedly different than the outfit that recorded Diary. Though it kicks off with the simmering, shimmering guitar heroics of "Killed by an Angel" and "One," The Rising Tide mostly expands upon How It Feels to Be Something On's layered, Middle Eastern-tinged pop, letting the songs build to climaxes that don't always involve overdriven amps and Enigk's spiraling screams.
Still, some remnants of the band's previous incarnation remain. As always, Enigk sings in a tortured howl, his voice dipping and diving out of control and straying well away from standard pronunciation. ("Clear" becomes "clie-ah-hah-ear-ah.") His mannered soprano is so affected, it's almost uncomfortable at times; you feel as if you're listening to something you shouldn't be, intruding on Enigk singing to himself. The Rising Tide is not as delicate as How It Feels to Be Something On, filled out by Diary's brainy brawn and Sunny Day Real Estate's casual complexity. It's exactly what the songs need to support the lyrics, whether it's the don't-name-names rant in "Snibe" or the hopeful, love-is-all-you-need wispiness of "The Ocean." Yes, the lyrics--penned by Hoerner and Enigk--are more weighty than most girl-meets-boy songs, and no, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. There's enough bands like that around. There should be more like this.
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