Charles the Osprey is too intricate to be such a joke band, but their origins suggest otherwise. The two-piece came together because guitarist Rafael Ohli and drummer Derek Lancioni felt like messing around in the studio. The cover art for new album Consider features a giant bird – probably an osprey, possibly named Charles or Charley or Chuck or perhaps Jebediah – fighting soldiers in riot gear. Soldiers who play rock ‘n’ roll! The group’s unofficial third member, James Barbour, is tasked with generating song and album titles, and he’s actually credited as such in the liner notes. Distinguishing between songs is kind of pointless, but here are a few song titles for a laugh: “Conversations With the Deacon, Vol I,” “The Frontal Lobe A-Go-Go,” “Lovercraft! Smile!”. At first, the band seems nonchalant.
Yet the music asks to be taken more seriously than that. The liner notes mention that the songs really were performed by just Ohli and Lancioni. The guitars really are guitars (It’s like a Rage Against the Machine record!). With the exception of “Conversations With the Pope I-III,” the band can perform these songs identically live. Which is impressive given how quickly and frequently they shift dynamics. Ohli seemingly drops every guitar trick he knows into the songs. Sometimes he goes for an angular Dave Pajo maneuver only to switch into more of a shimmering Dave Knudson sound. Lancioni for his part keeps time and rocks hard when appropriate. I imagine Barbour is somewhere on the sidelines cheering and/or fist-pumping.
Consider probably won’t convert many to the world of math-rock, and any criticisms of the genre are certainly pertinent to the band. Charles the Osprey rarely sticks to a groove. The songs are constantly shifting, like liquid, and while they’re impressive to me as a musician, they don’t always entertain me as a listener. Granted, that means the songs aren’t too self-indulgent in terms of length, but by fluctuating the dynamics so frequently, it creates a sort of musical ADD. And to be honest, after a while it all blurs together.
But that doesn’t completely discredit the album or the band behind it. Charles the Osprey is good at what they do, and as far as larks go, Consider is of surprisingly high quality.