Several years back, a friend, commenting on a new Sightings album, said “They don’t even sound like a band anymore.” And despite Sightings’ claim that it’s still just rock music, try playing this record for your mom and see if she believes that it’s the sound of a rock band. At the same time, Sightings have never sounded more confident and sure-footed in their style. They broke through the walls defining the boundaries of rock music long ago and have become masters of their new territory. Sightings are one of very few groups to have created their own unique musical language and then mastered it as well.
Sightings’ members all have very distinct playing styles. Drummer Jon plays looping, skittering percussive sounds more than beats. Bassist Richard plays wobbling subsonic pulses. And Mark Morgan’s guitar exists almost entirely in the mid-to-high frequencies, often sounding like a train wreck at the end of a tunnel while his vocals are confused mutterings and unhinged rantings. They’re even joined by Pat Murano playing synth on most tracks, something I didn’t even notice on first listen, which is a testament to how well he’s blended into the Sightings vibe and sound. The first track, “The Loafer” starts out with some guitar notes that are deep into the Psychocandy reverb zone, and might almost lead you to believe for a moment that a steady beat will drop and you’ll hear something that sounds like post-punk. Until the other instruments roll in like irregular boulders and the guitar sound starts stretching past the breaking point, cracking and sizzling. The closest precursors to Sightings’ style might be Mars, early Public Image Limited, and Royal Trux’s “Twin Infinitives.”
This album is not radically different from the last couple Sightings have done, but it might be even better. More focused, more confident. One of the all-time great bands, reaching a new peak. Good stuff.