When they formed in 2005, the Bay Area-based Ceremony were a hardcore punk band. After three albums, they did a 180 with Zoo (2012), which explored 80s-era British post-punk and even a bit of jangly indie rock and new wave. This intrigued some old fans and perplexed most, but also brought new ones on board like myself. If the band intentionally named themselves after the song that bridged the transition from Joy Division to New Order, this is most likely a return to the band’s earliest influences. There are actually not that many bands currently taking on such a muscular approach to the genre (Beastmilk/Grave Pleasures, Dark Blue, RA), which makes this an even more welcome addition to the post-punk family.
Everyone will likely hear different things, but to me it evokes Comsat Angels’ Sleep No More (1981), 1980-82 era Cure, and the gleaming obsidian oughties production of Interpol. Producer John Reis (Rocket from the Crypt) created a suitably stark, cavernous sound befitting the themes of destroyed relationships, isolation and despair. It’s Ross Farrar’s most emotionally charged writing, best exemplified by “The Separation,” the ringing melody is uplifting, making the painful sentiments all the more poignant.
I don’t know if it’s intentional, but the cover reminds me of XTC’s Skylarking (1986), which I played the shit out of the tape at the age of 16-17. While the album is a classic, I probably would have gotten even more out of the intensity of The L-Shaped Man. I may not feel such intense angst like I used to, but bands like Ceremony help me remember what it was like and empathize with those who continue to experience it.