(Bird In Box)
I've said it before and apparently I shall drive the point home yet another time. I am a sucker for dreamy swoony chimey guitar pop. I have a pickup power trio I jam with every once in a while, but this weekend Bass Stallion (as we like to call him. Because of his long flowing locks we initially dubbed him "My Little Pony" until he finally succumbed to our coaxing to buy a bass, and lo, after never picking one up before then, is a natural and actually the foundation of our sound, as it is) brought one of his roommates along, who unlike me, actually plays guitar in a conventionally "good" sense, so I got relegated to rhythm/atmosphere and set my controls on the heart of the swoon and had a ball. Something about that chimey jangle that was the stock in trade of the late-80's alternative rock thang that still gets me. Its not something that you can really get your entomology around. Its not in the Caveman-on-a-log - > Chuck Berry - > The Stooges - > Guns 'N Roses - > Blink 182 rock standard, it has its filigreed roots in a shallower water, like a cross between atmospheric wank of prog rock pastorale and post-punk walls of dissonance. Whatever it is, I love it.
The latest group to get my swoon on is The Dalloways, a pack of Smiths/Dream Syndicate revisionists from The San Joaquin Valley of California. I will only mention The OC once in this review, but c'mon y'all. Give these homeboys a shot in penance for putting Rooney on the map. From the opening organ buzz of "Clarissa, Dear" you get a feel from which facet of the Prism of Melancholy the ray of sunshine that is Penalty Crusade is emanating. Lead singer Gerhard Emis has a totally engaging yet decidedly, well, weird, voice. Its almost like he's singing through his nose, but I think its just that he sounds that way. Two songs into it, I'm sold, reminding me of the first time I heard Meat is Murder on my friend Scott's car stereo. I though the Moz sounded like a freaking suicidal muppet on "The Headmaster Ritual" yet was saturated to bliss when "What She Said" came around. Once the title track of this record spins around 5 songs. His voice is so singular, I don't want to hear anyone else for a while. The lyrics flow and splash on my mental shore like the gentle swirl of the music.
Some other highlights are the sweet keys and strum of "Given Everything" that feels as if you are circling Central Park in movie NYC, watching leaves fall as your lover hesitates at at the gate at La Guardia, looking back once more before flying off to Paris. Its not what the song is about exactly, but that same evocation occurs. "Lot's Younger Daughter" has really stunning production where the bass groove, twinkly twang of the guitar and drum shuffle swing around arm in arm until they all fall down. Are you getting the cinematic feel of this thing? They could play this album and then just film Hugh Grant and Juliette Lewis stumble around a cluttered London loft for an hour and make a much better movie than "Love Actually." But then, how could you not. A film of an anthill with a Motorhead soundtrack would be more engaging (hmmm.... where's my video camera...)
"How Can I Explain?" drives home the classic Smiths comparison, with the switch between sweep and stomp and the harmonized questioning and wordiness, its all good. I mean, who makes rhymes like "Tribulation" with "Condensation on the glass we just had/ of the bitter truth" anymore. And when he sputters "Go to hell" in the languid "Elected to Tell You" it brings it all rushing back. Were I still the melodramatic youth I once was, I'd suggest basking in the muted trumpet line of this song while lying on the floor of your bedroom, but that's not really me anymore. Plus they'd look at me funny at the office. Not like they don't already, those pathetic conformist fuckers,....oh what the hell (gets on floor) In short, get this record and give these lonely hearts some space on your CD rack. You won't want to work out to it or anything, but it will give your heartstrings a well-needed strum
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com