Though they will never match the power of their first two albums, these guys still have something special going on. To put it simply, the lead single “Don’t Ever Leave” is probably one of the best songs of the year and definitely SES’s best song of all time. With lyrics that are spiteful, yet curiously passive-aggressive, Sean Danielson goes from smooth singing to aggressive yet melodic screams and back again while tackling a failed relationship with what appears to be an alcoholic mess of a woman. (“I love the way you’re spitting in my face, the way you scream when you’re breaking all my things, I love the way you put me in my place, don’t ever leave me alone.”)
There are some low-points, however. Besides the boring instrumental track “Atoll,” there’s “Compromise,” a musically wonderful song, but lyrically the band’s cheesiest yet, with the chorus proclaiming “When will you realize, you’re now and forever mine, you don’t have to run. I won’t compromise all that I know is right. You and I are one.”
“Walking Away” suffers the same fate, as a hard-driving, aggressive yet emotional track that falls short lyrically. “Faceless,” however, breaks this trend with lines like “God only knows the side effects of listening to static on the radio.”
“Stay Alive” is a refreshing track as well, providing a positive, uplifting message for those who are having trouble dealing with life and contemplating suicide.
“L.A. River” is a scathing attack against the glitz and glamor appeal of the band’s hometown of Los Angles, which, according to Danielson, isn’t as glamorous as it appears, with more failed lives and broken dreams than what is usually portrayed. The music and vocal melodies are nearly perfect, with Danielson’s chorus scream raw enough, yet still accessible enough to send chills down your spine. “Ban Nuys”, a play on the L.A. neighborhood Van Nuys, also speaks
of hometown discontent.
The most surprising track on Consciousness, however, is “O’Lord.” If you know anything about SES’s catalog, you know that Danielson isn’t a big fan of religion or the belief in God. Songs like “Every Sunday,” and the controversial “Holes” – which was the catalyst in a massive protest by the religious right that led to the second album being scrapped in 2005 – have featured very anti-Christian lyrics. On “O’Lord” Danielson doesn’t appear to have exactly become a saint, praising God, but he does now recognize the existence of a higher power, as well as his own shortcomings over the years, asking for help and forgiveness for his past disbelief and lack of faith, with the lyrics “I’ve been angry for way too long. God help me get my head on straight. I’ve been locked in a drunken haze.” Most surprising is the line “Booze and broken bones are keeping me down. I need some direction, I need it right now.” After “Don’t Ever Leave,” this is definitely the album’s best track.
Though it’s a great album, there’s no real musical progression here. The band employs the same style as they have throughout their career, which, is refreshing
in an odd sense. So many bands seem to change so much, just TRYING to avoid sounding the same, but what they don’t realize is that when you’ve found the right sound, its not a bad thing to stick with it. These guys have realized it and do a good job holding on to it. However, the song-writing isn’t as great as it used to be, with their self-titled debut and unreleased second album Anxiety still towering above it. However, it should be noted that Consciousness is leaps and bounds ahead of their 2006 effort Vultures, which failed to produce more than a handful of memorable tunes.