These are Dan’s first impressions of Speak in Code. Read Colton’s here.
Is it bad that I don’t really like Speak in Code right now?
Yes and no.
Yes – I walk away from my first full listen feeling a little bit let down. Speak in Code — the first Eve 6 album in nine years — has as many forgettable songs as Eve 6’s first three albums combined. This is not really saying too much because Eve 6’s first three albums were each very good and very consistent, almost filler-free. Speak in Code is certainly not filler free, and likely the worst Eve 6 album yet.
Speak in Code also has some really horrendous moments. A few of these lines made me cringe. The worst offender is the chorus of “Everything”: “She’s everything, everything / She’s pulling on my heartstrings / She’s shattering illusions…” etc. This lyric, and a handful of others on the album, are more trite and sugary than literally any preceding line in Eve 6’s history.
Sorry for the harsh words, Max Collins (lead singer and songwriter for the band). I don’t want to accuse your muse of disappearing during the past nine years. But this is how I imagine your writing process going:
You: I want to say that this girl is overwhelming me. How can I describe her? *puts pen to paper*
1998 You: “Your erotic, wet, atomic eyes / Keep reoccurring in my mind”
2012 You: “She’s everything”
Age has mellowed you. I get it. You’re wiser, more content. But, I don’t think that gives you free pass to sing that you have “One life to live / Many paths to take.” That’s a lame lyric whether you’re the horny 18-year-old that wrote your debut album, or you’re the Buddha.
I didn’t want to I cherry-pick the worst lines on the album during my first listen of the album. But I had no choice. They just stuck out so painfully, and they piled up by the end of the album.
Speak in Code also feels a bridge too far from the core sound that made Eve 6 appealing in the first place. I’m all for a band evolving and trying new sounds. Before the hiatus, Eve 6 was quite good at evolving. Each album integrated more texture, more sonic variety, more experimentation than the last.
Instead of expanding their sound, Eve 6 has homogenized it, and focused it around something that feels removed from the group’s strengths. The polished, synthy timbre is not inherently a problem (even if I personally find it less appealing than I do their guitar-bass-drums glory days), but I didn’t detect sonic depth and complexity that made Eve 6’s earlier albums so appealing.
And now that I’ve spewed all of that bile, I do want to clarify that I have some reasons to a) like the album, and b) assume that I may one day like the album more than I do right now.
First is that some of the songs are very good. “Victoria” sounds like a long lost track from It’s All In Your Head. “Lost and Found” shows that good execution of a grown-up Eve 6 song that still retains the band’s original appeal is possible. There are a few gems here, or at least some flashes of competency.
I also should clarify that this review represents my impressions from a single run-through of the tracks, plus bouncing around as I write this. Even when you include the several times I listened to the pre-released singles, it adds up to an opinion that has had very little time to ferment.
I wouldn’t say Eve 6 uses a particularly complicated sound or structure, but they do have a distinct personality as a band. Collins has (or, possibly, had) a way of writing hooks that are big and memorable, but take a few listens to sink in. In short, Eve 6 songs are growers. Maybe (probably) my evaluation of the album will be more generous in time, just as my overall opinion of Eve 6 rose steadily from the first time I heard the band through the ensuing months and years.
Another important point: I formed these opinions by listening to the album from start to finish, which automatically builds some biases into my observation. I am likely weighing the later, weaker tracks more than I should.
There’s also the question of expectations. Eve 6 is one of my favorite bands. I’ve been waiting since 2006, when I bought all three of their albums in one purchase as a college student, to hear something new from them. There was a lot of time for me to raise my expectations to astronomical, unfair levels.
It’s All In Your Head, the last album they released before their hiatus, came out three years after its predecessor. Speak in Code came out nine years after its predecessor.
Does that mean Speak in Code should be 3× as great as It’s All in Your Head? Of course not. I would’ve been ecstatic if it had been 1× as great, or even 0.75× as great. Hell, maybe it is 0.75× as great and I’m just overrating It’s All in Your Head and underrating Speak in Code.
Plus, even if it’s just enjoyable filler, isn’t that better than nothing? There are traces of classic Eve 6 here, a few songs that live up to the very high standard I have for the band. Isn’t that enough?
Yes and no.