It’s been ages since I was able to enjoy this kind of music. The last time math rock held any meaning for me was the fall of 2005. I was living in Baton Rouge in the time between Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and I had spent four days on an uncomfortable couch in a powerless, sweaty apartment draining the remaining battery life of my iPod with Dream Signals in Full Circles by Tristeza.
I’m not exactly sure how or why slow, plodding post rock made the Hurricane Katrina disaster bearable for me; for that matter, maybe it flat out didn’t. Nevertheless, I listened to it compulsively in the fourth quarter of 2005. After civilized existence appeared to put itself back together in the ensuing months, I abandoned all things mathy in favor of the less subtle sounds of classic punk and rock n’ roll.
Fast-forward nearly five years to the date, and local New Orleans post rock band Smiley With A Knife has graced us with their second full-length album, Long Now. Many of the traditional elements of their forefathers – a dreamy ambiance and atypical (though not over-the-top) rhythmic structures – are present, but their sound, on songs like “Either Oranges or Ether”, comes across as somehow being very different than the kind of music bands like Tristeza used to create.
For me, that difference is inextricably tied to the time of my life in which I’ve heard them. Without treading all-too-often-treaded territory, things in this area of the country have changed considerably since the dark days of 2005 and 2006. For maybe that reason alone, Long Now strikes me not as gloomy or introspective, but rather as undeniably optimistic.
Whereas a Smiley live show may be one of the most captivating musical experiences one can have in the entire city of New Orleans, a Smiley album is decidedly more outward in its appeal. Long Now is music for driving, for sprinting, and for cleaning your house. Ultimately, just as their dueling jazz-influenced lead guitars seem to bring “Sexy Butcher” back together just as everything seems like it’s going to fly off the rails, Smiley’s music, as a statement, is about taking steps in whatever direction you can in an effort to put things back together.