The essays in Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs come off gleefully: even when discussing sordid or depressing material, there’s an underlying enthusiasm which I have chalked up to “WHOA, I GET PAID TO WRITE THIS!” His second collection of essays, Eating the Dinosaur, contains a larger number of memorable and insightful pieces than the first book, but it’s not as manic in its style. The excitement of the format has worn off, and now the arguments are foremost instead of the style. Eating the Dinosaur is better, but it’s not as much fun as the first one. This is very nearly the same situation that Cosmonauts find themselves in with The Demise of Daniel Raincourt.
The Cosmonauts’ previous EP The Disfiguration of Emily Malone established the central part of a story that the new one starts and finishes. Emily Malone is a hyperactive blast of My Chemical Romance-esque rock, complete with huge riffs and hooky vocal melodies. If it’s the middle of the story, then the whole tale is a crescendo to and decrescendo from the center: Daniel Raincourt is a more calculated, atmospheric take on Cosmonauts’ sound.
The five songs contained in this EP espouse songwriting that gives the instruments a great more breathing room. “The Slow Decay” has a preamble that goes on for 1:28; “Emily’s Surprise” is introduced by a forlorn guitar line and strings. The predominant emotion of the tunes is not adrenalized passion, but brooding.
The songs doesn’t stray too far from the previously established sound, but there’s a definite emotive shift that precludes the “BURYMEBURYMEBURYMEBURYME!” bravado of previous work. Even the upbeat Latin rhythms and sounds of “The Heritage Day Parade” manage to sound ominous (the roared vocals in this particular tune help, of course). This isn’t to say these songs don’t rock; it’s merely that the point of reference is different. These songs sound more like No Devolucion-era Thursday than MCR.
As a full album, the tunes of the previous EP would compliment these to complete a wide, satisfying range of moods. The idea of producing a concept album over three releases (two EPs and a vinyl) is the sort of ambition and forward-thinking that I love to see in bands; a) for even attempting a concept album, and b) for acknowledging the fact that distribution models are changing. This alone is enough to praise.
The songs deserve their props as well, especially the genre-morphing of “The Heritage Day Parade”; the growth in depth to Cosmonauts’ songwriting suggests a dedication to craft. Although I miss some of the ecstatic chord mashing of the previous EP, the change is good. Bands that change survive and thrive, while bands that stay static get tossed aside quicker than ever in this day and age. The Demise of Daniel Raincourt establishes Cosmonauts as a thoughtful, engaged rock band on both the musical and business fronts.