Exeter – Grey Noise, White Lies

Exeter - Grey Noise, White Lies

Exeter - Grey Noise, White Lies

In the 1955 sci-fi classic This Island Earth, a dubious character named Exeter at first doesn’t look or act quite right. Sure enough, this shady humanoid turns out to be an alien come here to gather Earth’s brightest scientific minds and most powerful natural resources. Whatever Exeter’s motive, wherever his story takes us, doom is in the air. And the unstated fact is that the fate of his planet could be the fate of ours.

This isn’t the story of man exploring the depths of outer space in the unsettled future. Rather, it is outer space coming to man.

The same can be said of the young Austin band called Exeter. Though often billed as space rock, Exeter doesn’t play rock that floats into the beyond. No, they play rock music that has come to Earth from the darkened window pane of the cosmos, reflecting back to us the space within – the tension and potential power of our own dim resonance. The sound we hear is Grey Noise, White Lies, a recording of anxiety, aggression, and disquiet in the form of heavy guitars, churning rhythms, and wavering melodies. This is the heaviest space rock around.

Eventually, Exeter might drop the word “space” from their genre tag because their musical telescope takes a panoramic view of rock n’ roll, Earth and sky. The seeds of late 1990’s alternative rock music bears ample fruit along this quartet’s wall of sound, their most evident influences being Hum and Failure. But the principal carryover from those days is angst. The joylessness of Grey Noise, White Lies is striking.

Exeter takes liberties with some of the song lengths in an effort to fully unearth the dark matter hardened in the clay beneath our cities and suburbs. Maybe none of it ever sees the light of day but, for Exeter, the flight here and the search and the dig make the journey, and it all culminates in the moment when the shovel finally strikes the lid of the box that holds the things we thought were buried.

They dig with guitars that alternately drive and dabble, and with a rhythm section that flushes out the barren sand. Opening track “Bittersweet Vanity” drives up and down and sideways. It’s a solid example of the multiplicity of sounds and rhythms that Exeter finds. Even better examples are “Everyday Parade” and “Planet X”, both songs are occasions in which the heaviness and emotion is at once muted and ear popping.

But my favorite is the lonesome requiem, “Numb”; about the time you settle in, the song pushes out its revelations. Throughout Grey Noise, White Lies, the songwriting shines. Each track develops with patience and anticipation, making excellent use of dynamics and changes. Songs here aren’t headlines; they’re feature articles with interesting tangents. And the sum of their parts is our story of struggle.

The heaviness of Grey Noise, White Lies will throw off fans expecting traditional space rock. But listeners will not likely care because a debut this good, this heavy and flexible, comes only once in a blue moon. The flaws are too few and forgivable to believe this is their first full length outing. Welcome Exeter to Earth, and learn from his cautionary tale.

Engineer Records
Exeter’s Myspace