REVIEW: Ceremony – The L-Shaped Man


ceremony-theLshapedmanAs you may have surmised based on the fact that the band is named after a Joy Division/New Order song, Ceremony owes quite a great debt to British post-punk music. The spidery guitar riffs,  prominent bass and full-throated vocals are all hallmarks of the bands that crept along right after England’s first wave of punk finally broke. (Gang of Four and Echo and the Bunnymen are also great examples). What Joy Division did, in a way, was the antithesis of punk rock. Though it kept the fast pace and urban nihilism, Ian Curtis’s lyrics generally turned the focus inward. “What’s wrong with me?” as opposed to “What’s wrong with society?” In doing so, he more or less paved the way for the archetypal British mopey malcontent. Arguably, the Byronic heroes of British romanticism did this years before, but Ian Curtis did so in the idiom of punk music, so give me a break. The importance of Joy Division cannot be overstated. Like The Velvet Underground (who were kind of doing the same thing in the late 60s over in the U.S.) Joy Division is one of those bands who somehow keep getting underestimated, despite the fact that they’ve been critical darlings since Ian Curtis was actually alive. Unlike the Velvet Underground, who have many different stages and facets of their sound, Joy Division just sounds like Joy Division. This is a great thing. They are the best at being Joy Division, hands down. The problem is, when a subsequent band is really influenced by Joy Division, then they sound a hell of a lot like Joy Division. Remember Interpol?

Ceremony is another such band. They happen to be from Northern California, but that’s irrelevant, as they really don’t sound like it. They’re obviously from Manchester, U.K.

The opener from their newest record, The L-Shaped Man, doesn’t bode well. In “Hibernation,” singer Ross Farrar warbles over a light piano for just under two minutes. It’s a really low-key, kind of alienating way to start a record, but who am I to decide that, I suppose? Just a music critic.

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Things start to pick up substantially with “Bleeder,” as Farrar drops the monotone and begins to display some actual personality, and the band beefs up some of the skeletal guitar riffs. 

As The L-Shaped Man progresses, Ceremony begins to sound a little less predictable. By the time we get to standout tracks “The Separation” and “The Pattern,” the group has incorporated some interesting time signatures and a few elements that wouldn’t be out of place in traditional punk music. On “The Pattern,” Farrar even musters an honest-to-God scream. I’m not familiar with Ceremony’s previous work, but I definitely prefer the more experimental sides of their sound. The group is tight and seemingly versatile, and they know how to deliver a memorable hook. I’m definitely anxious to see whether or not they can break out of Joy Division’s shadow for an entire album.

Release Date: May 19, 2015

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