With last year’s Guider, Chicago’s Disappears started out making a punchy EP and wound up with a spiraling, roomy full-length LP on their hands. By expanding the closing track “Revisiting” to a full side’s worth of chug and pulse, the band lifted 2011’s Guider beyond garage-psych hallmarks. They tipped their hand, revealing a seemingly infinite combination of winning cards.
Serving as the listener’s lead-in to the release of Pre Language (Kranky, 2/28/2012), “Revisiting” gave nearly sixteen unflinching minutes to survey the building blocks of Disappears’s sound. It was a bold move, and set the table for Pre Language with diamond forks and knives.
The Pre Language opener, “Replicate,” showcases the most notable alterations to the band. The classic rock drum intro is an appropriate herald. The production here is already more immediate than on Guider, eschewing some of the gauziness of that record and their debut, Lux. The drums rise to prominence, highlighted by the drafting of Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley when Disappears powered-up their rhythm section. Tight, stomping repetition has been a major component of Disappears’s act, and Shelley elevates the material here in much the same ways he did Evol.
“Minor Patterns” and “Joa” sound pulled from the same ether as Chrome’s 1981 classic Blood on the Moon in their dark metallic chug. The title track and closer “Brother Joliene” check in with the open-ended burn of their previous work. The guitar palette is rich, surf lined up alongside clang and shimmer. However, rather than stand on their choice effects and hypnotic extended sections, Disappears craft a clean(er) guitar rock record with more punch and potential for mass appeal than they had previously shown. This is well-tread ground, and there is a risk of catching too much of the middle, but the band does well to retain the foundation of guitar work that made “Revisiting” and the like so engaging.
All of this leads to the transformation of their effects-laden, primal sound into full-on rock form, especially on a song like “Fear of Darkness.” This was there all along, just as the more open-ended sections are still present on Pre Language. A classic rock element has emerged, along with the drumming change, as a dominant trait, just as the guitars have coagulated into brighter stereo. It is an honest listen that takes advantage of recent personnel gains, attention and simply sounds a lot bigger than anything they’ve done before.
Pre Language is a graduate garage album with chops. From radar screen blips to sunken battleships, the guitar work and songwriting recalls decades’s worth of rock and roll and maintains much of the specific aesthetic appeal of Lux and Guider.