Rock has never been a genre known for its conformity. The Beatles and Pink Floyd were pioneers of their sounds; Led Zeppelin revolutionized hard rock by incorporating elements from blues and folk; David Bowie defied gender norms, embracing androgyny as a rock icon. So it's no surprise, then, that Yves Tumor’s 2023 release Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) refuses to fit into a box, instead subverting expectations with a willingness to reinvent what rock music means—at least until someone inevitably does it again. If Tumor’s Heaven To a Tortured Mine (2020) and Safe in the Hands of Love (2018) demonstrated their ability to harness the experimental sounds that put them on the map, Praise a Lord is evidence of their mastery.
While their previous work was undeniably grounded and consistent, their individual songs ebbed and flowed, purposefully, from genre to genre—some clearly inspired by funk, others feeling like lo-fi bedroom pop, while still others dipped into punk-rock. Praise a Lord ditches the “alternative” label, instead fully embracing a rich and sonically-impressive rock that often mutates into something that feels much deeper and darker. Although you can feel the album begging not to be limited to one label (even though I may have just tried to do it myself), Tumor’s brilliance is measured in their dedication to creating a sound that evolves far beyond that of alt-rock and relentlessly reinvents itself, sometimes in the middle of a song. To call it “alternative” in order to avoid labeling it would do a disservice to Tumor’s constant exploration of the rock genre.
It helps that Tumor has both Noah Goldstein and Alan Moulder at the helm. Goldstein, whose production and sound engineering has touched Kanye’s My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy and Frank Ocean’s Blonde, and Moulder, who has worked alongside My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, and Lush, come together to create a sound that is endlessly rich and ready to explode; yearning for something. Moulder’s background in shoegaze doesn’t go unnoticed, as Tumor builds from the reverberating drone that sets the darkly cathartic tone for much of Praise a Lord.
Tumor’s angst is clear from the first seconds of the album. “God Is a Circle” begins with an anguished scream, gasping breaths, and a pulsing bass that prepares us for a rapid descent into gleeful torment. We’re along for the ride, the destination unknown. The song builds into an intense, pounding rock shot with rapid strikes of guitar riffs. It isn’t hard to be tricked into thinking you’re listening to unreleased Bloc Party, but that’s the beauty of Praise a Lord; Tumor is gifted at injecting their own experiential, brooding sound into those already familiar to the listener.
Similarly, “Meteora Blues” opens with bright guitar chords evocative of The Flaming Lips, before being met with an avalanche of crushing sonic layers, which replace the previously airy strumming with a wave of electric guitar. The track is a reminder not to get comfortable; to welcome and, simultaneously, be prepared for the unexpected. When “Purified by the Fire” begins with crisp, radiant horns, there’s only so much time to appreciate what feels like the beginning of an uplifting final chapter of the album before you’re plunged back into the dark depths of Praise a Lord. The horns fight against their own distortion, as the same instruments—so deeply pitched that it’s hard to imagine them going lower—emulate predatory warnings in a sonic whirlwind of anxiety. It’s a remarkable display of the vivid sound that Tumor is able to produce, one that feels like it enters through your ears only to run through and take over your bloodstream.
When Praise a Lord breaks free from its dark depths (and it does it enough—it’s not all foreboding), it’s always welcome. “Ebony Eye” triumphantly caps off Praise a Lord, rising above the hypnotic malaise of “Purified by the Fire” in a cathartic release of strings and Tumor’s captivating vocals—vocals occasionally overshadowed by the sound-shattering production, albeit not in a way that detracts from the album. When Tumor’s vocals are given space, like in the equally triumphant “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood,” they pierce through the veil of sound, yearning in tandem with the freeing guitar.
Praise a Lord’s brilliance is emblematic of Yves Tumor. As a black and non-gender conforming artist, Tumor does not represent the “status quo,” and their music is all the better for it. Like all good rock artists before them, Tumor creates and reinvigorates through disruption, refusing to let their music become stagnant or uncomfortable. Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) is evidence that rock music is just as relevant as it was when Led Zeppelin and AC/DC were in their prime. It’s simply evolving and reinventing.
Alex Johnson is a sophomore in the College majoring in Government and minoring in Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs.