The first (and so far, only) time I saw By the End of Tonight live was when they opened for the Blood Brothers the day after the 2004 Presidential election. For obvious reasons, the atmosphere at Club Fat Cat’s was VERY tense. Once the Houston quartet took the stage, though, the audience’s inhibitions were quickly cast away. The band injected their long and endlessly shifting math-metal jams with sorely needed doses of humor, energy and novelty. They swung their instruments around so recklessly that the people standing in front had to duck every 30 seconds or so. The musicians screamed lyrics at each other far away from the microphones and, in a hilarious parody of acoustic “unplugged” sets, turned their guitars all the way down until all we could hear was the sound of picks strumming strings. Last but not least, the drummer whacked his mind-boggling rhythms and fills out on a toddler’s drum kit that had to be miked heavily in order to match the volume of the rest of the band. These goofy details definitely placed them a cut above many of the other math-rock bands I’ve seen on stage.
By the End of Tonight are a slightly harder sell on record, though. Their last EP Fireworks on Ice was marred by heavy-handed production that tried to compensate for the tonal limitations of Jeff Wilson’s unorthodox kit by placing him intolerably high in the mix. The production backfired, though, as it only emphasized how trebly Wilson’s kit sounds when not recorded properly. Their latest “album” (five songs in 30 minutes would make the cut if this were the ‘70s) A Tribute to Tigers benefits from a much more sympathetic treatment. Chris Ryan’s and Eric Faucette’s production places Wilson’s playing on equal footing with the other three musicians, and make him sound as if he’s playing on a “real” adult-sized kit. Those who haven’t already seen the band live won’t be able to tell the difference. This, coupled with the fact that one can’t watch the band swing their instruments around while listening to the CD, strips the music of some of its novelty.
As far as songwriting is concerned, By the End of Tonight aren’t doing anything new. Guitarist Josh Smith’s and Stefan Mach’s squealing and finger-tapping on “Stop, Drop and Roll Does Not Work in Hell” can be traced directly back to Don Caballero’s “Slice Where You Live Like Pie.” Come to think of it, “Stop, Drop and Roll…” even READS like a lost DC song title! Every song (the surprisingly straightforward “Tigers” being the sole exception) spends its first half announcing a theme, only to spend its second half running through as many riffs and rhythmic shifts as possible until they spontaneously combust. As with their live show, this record’s true stock in trade is sheer energy. At times, the band struggles to stay in sync with each other during the many mid-song transitions. Even in these moments, they sound overzealous instead of sloppy --- these guys are simply too good on their instruments to outright suck. Besides, if they were playing these songs in front of me, I’d be too busy moshing and ducking to care about the occasional bum note or misplaced fill.
In short, A Tribute to Tigers is an above-average slice of (mostly) instrumental math-rock that comes surprisingly close to replicating the goofiness and intensity of the band’s live show. It’s not an essential record, but if this kind of music piques your interest, you could do a LOT worse. I look forward to hearing what By the End of Tonight will do next.
Artist Website: http://www.bytheendoftonight.com
Label Website: http://www.temporaryresidence.com