Explosions in the Sky: How Strange Innocence
Temporary Residence

Explosions in The Sky had been together a mere seven months when they recorded How Strange, Innocence over two days in January 2000 and then mixed and mastered it in two more. With none of the band's four members (Mark Smith, Christopher Hrasky, Munaf Rayani, Michael James) ever having been in a studio before, the resultant material became an object of not only affection for the group but embarrassment too, so much so that some of them even contemplated buying back every one of the 300 CDRS the band had produced to sell on the road in order to burn them (300 vinyl copies were also subsequently produced); in fact, the recording was put aside to let Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever appear as the band's first official release. With all due respect, the idea of destroying the copies definitely belongs in the “What were they thinking?” category, ‘cos—despite minor flaws (e.g., a snare sound that sometimes sounds like cardboard being hit and some overly intrusive tape hiss)—How Strange, Innocence is one very fine album.

The quartet amply demonstrates that nothing more than guitars, bass, and drums are needed when dynamic emotional range meets up with compositional smarts. Hear not only the stabbing, anthemic howl that ignites songs like “A Song for Our Fathers,” “Magic Hours,” and “Glittering Blackness” but how seamlessly the group drops from a rollicking gallop to delicate peals of chiming guitar at the beginning of “Snow and Lights.” And turn the volume way up to fully experience the wailing euphoria with which the ten-minute jaw-dropper “Time Stops” climaxes. Apartment-dwellers will no doubt be evicted for doing so but the effect is so incredible they'll never regret it. Coming after such intensity, “Remember Me as a Time of Day” closes the set with a welcome placidity. Yes, How Strange, Innocence impresses, but what stands out even more is the confidence and patience with which the band executes the material, something unusual for a band at the beginning of its career.

December 2005