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I suppose that whenever we try to criticize a new album by Anathema, it's necessary to start off with a disclaimer: I don't hate this "new" Anathema (that isn't actually that new, but whatever) and I have no beef with Alternative 4, A Natural Disaster or A Fine Day to Exit. I even prefer them to most of the unpolished, raw mess that constitutes half of Serenades.
Their last effort is, however, unbearable. It makes Alternative 4 sound like grindcore by comparison, for crying out loud. Take all generic rock 'n' roll ballads you've ever heard with light guitars, "moving" film soundtrack synths, pianos, and emotional singing, mash it all together and you have We're Here Because We're Here (hands down, the winner for the 2010 stupidest title award). And it's a tricky little beast too. Its opener, "Thin air", tries to lure you into thinking this is just another Anathema album with a clean guitar melody reminiscent of A Natural Disaster, though the vocals are higher and more annoying than normal. Then the guitars get almost heavy in the chorus and you think that maybe this album may not be too bad. It still reminds you of stuff like Coldplay or U2, which I can't say is a good thing.
But before you realize it, you're hearing "Dreaming light" and wondering what the fuck is going on. Sure, it's been years they have stopped playing metal anymore, but this leaves the "atmospheric rock" terrain and dives straight into pure easy-listening pop music. The same goes for the horribly-titled "Angels Walk Among Us". You know that comedian called Jon Lajoie, the dude responsible for "Show Me Your Genitals"? Yeah, well, he has a parody song called "Radio Friendly Song" and it sounds pretty much like these two tracks, except it's funny because it mocks exactly this type of music.
The remainder of this album can't manage to be as awful as those two songs, but they proceed to rehash Anathema's older stuff, except diluted and stretched in songs that pass the 7-minute mark. It all kind of mashes together in my mind after "Presence", the filler spoken word song. There's a cool little moment in "A Simple Mistake", past the 4th minute when a few things actually happen while the vocals shut up, but that too is stretched. And the same happens in "Hindsight". But, hey, at least they aren't piano-driven.
Then, there's the lyrics. To be brief, they're simple, kitschy, maudlin pap. A lot of doom metal focuses on kitschy "woe is me" stuff, but this reaches "Powerpoint presentations with 'cute' phrases and sunset pictures your aunt emails you" levels. Here, I selected a few gems from 3 different tracks:
"Love is free
In time, in peace
And now is here
This life, this dream..."
"I... chose... love...
'cos everything is energy and energy is you
'cos everything is energy and energy is you and me"
"Only you can heal your life,
can heal inside"
This is the stuff that middle-aged women with Thomas Kinkade paintings hanging in their living rooms who cry watching Titanic and read romance novels with Fabio on their covers find beautiful, emotional, and inspiring. And it's, needless to say, completely unacceptable for a band that's been on the road for 20 years already.
So, in the end, what do we have here? Something that sounds like self-plagiarizing, U2, Coldplay and a parody of radio-friendly songs with insipid lyrics to boot. It's like Anathema's slowly unlearning how to make music. Some call this progression, but how can sounding like what's been in the radio for decades be progression?