Two thousand thirteen’s The Flood Inside was my introduction to Germany’s Long Distance Calling, which was an album that created some serious divisions within their fanbase. The band had operated within the bounds of 2000’s post-rock for their first few records, with occasional ventures into vocal-led territory with some guest appearances. But with The Flood Inside, however, they opted to make more than half of the record vocal-led, taking far stronger influence from alternative and progressive rock, to create a more balanced sound. And I enjoyed it a lot, at the time. Instrumental post-rock is something that can get dry incredibly quickly, especially in the vein that LDC played, and by shoving big, booming catchy alt-rock choruses in between the instrumental songs, they pushed new life into a dying sound, and in doing so escaped criticism of being generic.
But as I spent more time with that album, and the band, my enjoyment of it started to wane. The instrumental songs were never the focus of my original enjoyment, but upon re-listening they really were some absolutely dull slices. And to add to that, the alt-rock songs didn’t age well either – with the focus being on grungy choruses and cheap alt-rock melodies, I found myself growing out of them too, to the point in which I don’t think I’ll ever willingly listen to that album again. I originally thought it was an album that avoided genericism, but in reality it’s just two generic albums from different genres shoved together. The post-rock parts were empty, emotionless and uninspired, and the alt-rock parts were catchy on the surface but dull underneath. And honestly, I feel the exact same way about Trips.
Post-rock is a genre of emotion and beauty and power and life, and I don’t think I’ve heard a record this lifeless in the last year. It’s poor for the same reasons that a group like God is an Astronaut do nothing for me – the melodies are decent, the performances are decent, but there’s no feeling or build or release, they just kind of exist. Opener “Getaway” almost personifies this lifelessness. It sounds like the desperately empty soundtrack to a low-budget sci-fi film written in haste by a composer who absolutely despises the script, knows nothing about sci-fi, but has seen Blade Runner once. The corny synths, the dry three-note guitar riff, the disco beat taken straight from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, the electronic vocal effects, everything about the song is lacking so much in emotion or power or inspiration. “Momentum” is nearly the same deal, and “Trauma” gets my eyes rolling for different reasons – this time the band opting for repetitive and uninspired metal riffs (the kind that your 14 year old cousin comes up with on his new SG) as opposed to synthesizer lines.
Trips is not this lifeless for its entire duration, and although my words seem overly hostile, this is not an abomination of music. Every now and then there are melodies that could be part of good songs, if they were done with some more gusto. “Reconnect” obviously has a pretty powerful chorus, and for at least one listen it’s a decent one, but anything past that and it sounds irritatingly try-hard, almost grasping at getting some U2-esque theatricality going, but ending up sounding like a poor man’s Deftones. “Rewind” is actually a nice song for parts, with a nicely introspective verse, but the chorus again becomes quite annoying after multiple listens. “Lines” again tries for U2-style heights and gets a bit closer with a pretty solid chorus, but (and there always is a ‘but’ with this record), the verses are as soft as you could possible get.
Ultimately, this is just a forgettable album. There’s nothing intrinsically bad about it, but a great deal of it is just so blasé and uninspired that I wouldn’t recommend even fans of post-rock to check it out. The instrumental numbers are just weak jams around often incredibly simple motifs and the vocal-led ones are just alternative rock songs from the 90’s. There’s just very little here that warrants any sort of attention or praise, despite having some decent moments.