Ought – Room Inside the World
Ought's third album is a joyous philosophical cacophony that finds new ways to inform, excite and challenge the listener
Room Inside the World is Ought's third album, and first for Merge. Recorded over a longer period than their previous work, it has a patience that has erstwhile been in short supply. While the usual post-punk and art rock influences permeate the record, there's so much more room available here. Disaffectation contains a shimmering, Cure-esque guitar line to beautifully frame Tim Darcy's elastic, yearning vocals, while Disgraced in America features a disco horn breakdown as the band try out their best Bowie impression. The album's centrepiece Desire is a masterclass in slow burning fury, with buoyant choral backing.
Room's lead single, These 3 Things, is a wonderful example of the way in which the band have managed to incorporate pop melodies without sacrificing any of their post-punk nihilism. They can still make startling, stark imagery even if it comes in a glossier coat: 'If you're made of stone, then turn to clay / Wash away my body, I don't need it / I stop moving, slowly glisten, and hurt'.
They also split the difference between tender and acerbic elsewhere on the album. Take the brilliant Brief Shield, one of the softest cuts in the Ought ouevre ('Hold my heart / I'll let the world run by...'). That's followed two songs later by Pieces Wasted, the most anguished and atonal track found here, reminiscent of Parquet Courts' Monastic Living EP (though not quite as deliberately obtuse).
The knife-edge tension between ugliness and beauty is rendered masterfully across Room Inside the World, all the way through to Alice – a closing song that manages to evoke both Alice Coltrane's smoky meditations through whirling, Eno-esque ambient noise, as well as a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole when the arrangement inevitably collapses in on itself.
What Ought achieve on this album both surpasses and expands on what they've already built. A joyous philosophical cacophony that finds new ways to inform, excite and challenge the listener.
Listen to: Desire, Disaffectation, Into the Sea