In the spirit of full disclosure, the last time The Membranes released a studio album of new material, I could barely form a complete thought. My brain wasn’t developed enough back then to understand pretty much anything, let alone the complexities of the universe that we inhabit. Hell, I’m not sure if my brain is developed enough now to understand the universe. But The Membranes know a thing or two about it; Their new album, Dark Matter / Dark Energy, is a concept album about the creation and collapse of the universe. It’s ambitious enough to write any kind of concept album, but to tackle the entirety of being while also being motivated by the death of a parent AND have it be your first album since 1989? The Membranes certainly know how to come back swinging.
As one might expect from an album dealing with the life cycle, there’s a lot to take in here. The music is dark, the vocals are haunting, and the lyrics are all over the place. Dark Matter / Dark Energy is a dense album. The drums and bass are prominently featured as the driving forces in many songs, freeing up the guitars to kind of do whatever they want. There are also violins, melodicas, and even a snippet of a lecture by CERN particle physicist Joe Incandela (who happens to be the inspiration for the album in the first place). It bears repeating: Dark Matter / Dark Energy is a dense album.
This is not an album that’s meant to be listened to casually. Sure, there are some individual tracks that you might be able to get away with sneaking into a playlist, but as a whole it needs to be listened to in its entirety. A daunting task, given that many of its 14 tracks run between 5 and 7 minutes. Dark Matter / Dark Energy is not a punk album, but that doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible for punk rockers. However, much like taking a college level physics course, it’s probably better to have some kind of interest before diving in.
3 / 5
RIYL: Public Image Ltd, Big Black, Wire