Minimalist yet heartfelt, the Californian punk quintet’s fifth studio outing distances itself from their entire back catalogue, introducing a stark, authentic despair driven by vocalist Ross Farrar’s recent romantic turmoil. At first easily misunderstood, ‘The L-Shaped Man’ presents a lucid lyrical interpretation of a fragile mental state, set to the tune of disjointed guitars and fragmented drums that convey the disarray left in the wake of a breakup.
The atmospheric apathy of opener ‘Hibernation’ accompanies an obscure piano to depict the first of many stages of recovery. “The pain will leave in the night,” reminds ‘Exit Fears’, voicing the little comfort of the healing effects of the passage of time.
“Can you measure the loss?” asks ‘The Separation’, brooding in its self-deprecating reflection. Similarly, the energetic instrumental interlude of the echoing ‘Bleeder’ at odds with the tedious gloomy guitars of ‘Your Life In France’ expose a heartbroken yet tiresome side to the genre that rarely sees the light of day.
Anguish personified, ‘Root Of The World’ demonstrates Ceremony’s appeal to the catastrophic side effects of losing a partner subtly spits venom any chance it can get. “They came back to you, they always come back to you,” reminds ‘The Party’, vocalising a distraught anger from the perspective of the one left behind.
Throughout the mind-boggling energetic fretwork of ‘The Party’ clashing with the melancholic ‘The Understanding’, ‘The L-Shaped Man’ draws upon a cacophony of emotive states to suggest a shift toward a realm of bleak realism. Contemplative on heavy loss and the weight of the world, ‘The Bridge’ comforts itself with the thought that “your heart was just asleep that night”.
On first listen, ‘The L-Shaped Man’ appears an unexpected, at times disastrous move away from Ceremony’s punk roots. Each note conveys the realism of apathy and confusion of breakup trauma, however bleak and somewhat uninspiring.
’The L-Shaped Man’ by Ceremony is out now on Matador Records.
Words by Ali Cooper (@AliZombie_)