Monday, February 2, 2015
Murder By Death: "Big Dark Love"
I have kept one eye on these guys since their masterpiece "Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them", they have touched on the things that made that album great, like on "Red of Tooth and Claw", but never really recaptured. This album doesn't either, but it comes closer than anything I have heard of them since, but oddly it is also their most commercial sounding release.
This is not a sell out as you could say they are going about it the same way as the National, though there are more digital elements and electronics at the edges of things, most of this is due to the slick production they played with here. Some of these songs take a few listens for it to hit you and grasp the slickness . I think of gritty dark creaking sounds when I think of Murder By Death, very organic, so it takes some getting used to . though they have a darker more mournful particularly in the strings. The lead singer, has lost the gravelly Tom Waits meets Nick Cave thing, though retains a very Americana sound to his smooth baritone.
The beat to the opener has a pop feel, but the other qualities defining the bands's are in still the same room. The chorus has an obvious hook that jumps out at you. It is however despite the more Third Eye Blind party vibe well written. Adam Turla's voice sounds great, though lacking is whiskey drenched grit. They back off into one of a few moments that make me think they are going about reaching a broader audience in a manner like the National. It's smooth, but no where near as dark as their previous work. The western lounge lizard reflection of the title track carries that "Who Will Survive " feel. The guitar tone on the entire album is perfect with just the right amount of echo. The lyrics to the title track also feel more like where the band normally comes from.
The strings on "Dream in Red" balance out the pop production, but the song teases you into thinking it's going to build into a rocking outburst that never comes about. I'll have to admit, you never know what is going to work the pop elements to "Solitary One" are some of the things that make it a great song, that instantly grabbed me. Almost like some of alternative pop of the 90's Primitive Radio Gods meets Red Hot Chili Peppers in their more funkless balladry. More often than not this is tempered with their morose western sound. On a song like "Send Me Home" it comes across like a Chris Isaak with out the yodels.
In the album's third act they begin to take on a more bouncing country ramble, which begins to get a little too upbeat for my tastes. Though it is well played. The guitar tone on the solos is spot on and the country sound they capture is pretty authentic, and not just a hat the are trying on. This should not come as a surprise as it has been an element always hinted at. They break from this with the very 90's Brit poppy riff to "It Will Never Die". His voice takes on a more plaintive croon like young Johnny Cash. They end things with enough desperate passion to make up for what it lacks in depressing gloom. Overall it takes a little getting used to some of the changes and some of the country elements are too happy for me , but they are well done so I am going to round this one up to an 9 because when it hits the marks it really hits it.