Three years ago, Portland band Eyelids released their full-length debut, 854. Now they’re back with Or, produced by Peter Buck of R.E.M., which once again proves them to be studious disciples of the indie-pop art form. But with this sophomore effort, they seem to be imprisoned within the paisley cage they constructed on their first album. While the downer psych-pop they try to emulate can be invigoratingly broody, Eyelids’ expertise in nostalgic melancholia feels like a damp cloth over the star-studded proceedings.
You can’t blame the painstaking attention to detail or the LP’s respectful intentions—both are carried out with the fervor of historical recreationists. The ghostly vibrations of heroes like the Beatles (“(I Will) Leave with You”) and the Kinks (“Ghost Ghost Ghost”) are lovingly exhumed, while creative instrumentation and vintage effects pedals cast spells of phase and tremolo across your imagination. The sparkling rhythms of “Tell Me You Know” pave a golden walkway, along which Chris Slusarenko’s tender tenor glides with ease.
What’s missing from Or are titillating chord changes, or some poetic adventure to augment the crystalline settings, that extra oomph that artistically shifts the mundane into the marvelous. In my headphones, amplifiers were dancing a symbiotic waltz, yet I found myself anticipating an emotional Flying Nun-style elevation or wild Big Star brushstroke that always seemed just out of reach. The clever turn of phrase that cuts through the studio perfection never arrived, leaving a suite of gentle songs suspended motionless in a cloud of shimmering meticulousness.
My experience with Or is akin to throwing on a pair of jeans that’s just come out of the dryer: Initial feelings of warmth and familiarity quickly melted into my environment and away from my attention span. Fans of the pristine will appreciate Eyelids’ psychedelic ambivalence, and will tell me I’m missing the philosophical point. But to me, this album finds a talented band restraining themselves from their sonic potential and the whimsy that attracted them to the underground pop they love in the first place. I’ve never required originality in my rock ’n’ roll, just a tad more inspiration.