.The Plastic Constellations’ new album, “Crusades,” is closer to the myth and fantasy of “Lord of the Rings” than to CNN, but the album’s artwork and lyrics capture the sense that we’re in the midst of a battle, whether against nature or humanity.
The cover of “Crusades” features spewing volcanoes, bolts of lightning, swirling tornadoes and the ground splitting open. The lyrics spin tales of epic journeys, phoenixes, beasts and knights over Fugazi-inspired post-punk.
Guitarist Aaron Mader said “Crusades” was actually written in December 2004 before the tsunami.
“(The album) is about what you feel day to day, just not to the extreme,” Mader said. “It’s about the daily struggle.”
While “Crusades” eerily emulates the apocalyptic fury of the recent weather and war, The Plastic Constellations add hints of a more mundane reality.
On “Best Things” Mader sings, “Dragged down by the dayshift / When you’re dealing with defeat you know you gotta be patient / The time comes when you face it and get back to basics / This ice age is a wa ste pit.”
Mader wrote the lyrics with bandmate Jeff Allen. Even with two songwriters, the album has a consistent theme and repeated imagery throughout.
“We wanted to make a record that feels like a whole,” Mader said. “I was thinking about bigger concepts. And I’ve always been into myths that are bigger than life. Jeff let me continue with that, but he would tell me when enough was enough. That’s why Jeff balances the record.”
Mader said that while writing “Crusades” he pictured the band as warriors. And in many ways, the record could be seen as the journey of TPC.
“The battlefield became the stage / The kickdrum is an earthquake, and the typhoon is the bass / The guitars will make the earth shake, and this song is the birth place” the band sings on “Quixote.”
TPC began in 1995 when the members were 14-year-olds at Hopkins High School. The band began playing with some bigger local bands, such as Lifter Puller, despite their youth. Their 2000 album, “Let’s War,” solidified the group as a Twin Cities favorite. 2002’s “Mazatlan” was well-received and gained some national attention.
Though the band has lasted a decade (much longer than the average band life), it was not always smooth seas.
“There were lots of points where we were close to breaking up,” Mader said. “Some of us went through the whole four years of college, we were living on our own, paying bills and there was just a million new things. For a while, we would only play a show every six months or so. There were long gaps.”
Luckily, TPC got new motivation. French Kiss Records (a New York label whose roster includes bands like Les Savy Fav, The Hold Steady and Thunderbirds Are Now!) signed TPC to the label and is putting out “Crusades.”
“We had some serious discussions about the band,” Mader said, “and we decided it was time for us to really do this. We made the band more of a priority for this record.”
The prioritization shows; “Crusades” is the band’s most focused and consistently good record. It captures the restlessness of a society plagued with disaster but through imagery and metaphors that somehow make it easier to understand.
The Plastic Constellations are warriors, and they will lead us into battle.