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Empty Country - Empty Country II (Album Review)

Wednesday, 08 November 2023 Written by Craig Howieson

Not content with releasing four blistering records as the frontman of the post-rocking indie-punks Cymbal Eat Guitars, in 2020 Joseph D’Agostino announced an entirely new project in the form of Empty Country. Far from being a poor imitation of what had come before, it signalled a fresh chapter and reinvigorated way of working for the songwriter, whose razor sharp observations of American life bled into his increasingly fictitious writing style.

‘Empty Country II’ is, as you might have guessed, the second record from this outfit, offering up a vast exploration of sounds and styles. With nine songs clocking in at close to an hour there is a lot to digest — each track plays out like a novella in which D’Agostino picks at the scabs barely holding the country together. 

As people and worlds collide, so too do the band's musical influences. Their post-rock has a funky backbone, and even the moments of garage-rock seem to tremble with a jazz sensibility.

Opener Pearl may have an air of heartland rock and recall Tom Petty in its firework shower of arpeggiated guitars, but by its closing stages it has crumbled into an hollow-eyed freakout.

Elsewhere, Syd is an adrenaline-reared punk beast that drummer Charlotte Anne Dole pummels until its closing seconds. Very little is off limits and when D’Agostino is telling his tales of vagabonds and dropouts it seems fitting that no track stays the same for too long.

These stories, including a fitting tribute to his friend David Berman on David, feel all the more vital because D’Agostino sings with such passion that his voice is often close to breaking point. Leaving in every wavering line makes it easy to forget just how gifted he is as a singer, but on FLA his vocal take is nothing short of breathtaking.

‘Empty Country II’ feels like a recorded attempt to recreate the sheer expanse of America that the band and album is named after. Sharing the same violent view of crumbling western civilisation that you would expect from a Cormac McCarthy novel, it is a record that will swallow you up in its world. Not one for the passive listener, nor the faint hearted, it is an impressive retaliation against the wickedness in the world. 

Empty Country Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue November 21 2023 - LONDON Oslo

Compare & Buy Empty Country Tickets at Stereoboard.com.


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