by Ciara Mannion
On The Age of Envy, the true essence of Cale and the Gravity Well shines through. Few musicians are as instantly recognisable as this band. Concise and fresh use of different genres, unusual lyrics and unconventional guitar chords are the most obvious hallmarks of their work.In this album, we are startled and challenged with an honest and deeply moving portrait of Cale’s contrasting state of mind and escape from reality.
A perfect example of the challenging nature of The Age of Envy is Charming Devil. This song explores one of the low periods that tend to dominate Cale and the Gravity Well’s music. Here we are met with the workings of the human mind under stress and the stages of a mental breakdown due to adulthood. This is vividly suggested by the phrase “I don’t know which is worse the thing I am or the thing I will be ” .
The beginning “September’s early, every year earlier” is not simply about a tranquil scene, but a reflection of his own life- the loss of youth, passion and energy. Like September, he too is ageing and reminded of his own mortality.
Perhaps the devil mirrors not only the sordid realities of society but the singer’s own anxieties about his life. Consequently, the singer’s sadness is revealed indirectly in him being drawn towards death.
The verses are stripped back, featuring guitar playing over a bass synth as drums slowly build towards a more heavily produced chorus. The steady increase in volume is suggestive of a mind under increasing strain.
The repeated use of “What does that say about me” in the final verse is ambiguous, possibly suggesting the breaking point of the singer’s mind or the finality of death.
However, The Age of Envy is certainly not all ‘doom and gloom’. In sharp contrast to most of Cale and the Gravity Well’s music, So Many Lashes is extremely uplifting and charming .
It is also a display of a deep desire to find a way to escape from sordid realities for a new kind of life where wisdom will grow; that the soul is not immune to the difficulties and troubles which occur within society yet it chooses to rise above all of the problems that occur within it.
This ambition is vividly drawn in the chorus with the use of dirty guitars and vocal harmonies of “Up,Up,Up,” which create a sense of unsurpassable joy in a dream-like nature and the repeated alliterative “a” sounds found in “ And At-um” which establishes a somewhat jarring effect with use of a gloomy double negative that seems to correspond with the fractious nature of the society.
In conclusion, The Age of Envy is intensely personal but has an unquestionable universal appeal. The album’s unique style often challenges the listener, heightening the appeal of its verse. Listening to this album is not like listening to any other indie-alternative rock group. Instead, it is as though the album takes you across a threshold of some sort, familiar at first but increasingly strange. Whether you like where you end up or not, you have to admit that you are somewhere remarkably unforgettable.