Tom Waits did a show with The Bad Seeds. They added the horns from Morphine and the industrial-ish tendencies of Girls Against Boys. The result was Cop Shoot Cop’s 1994 album Release. I mean, not really, but if you just told me that’s what this album was and then played it for me, I would have no trouble believing you.
As brilliant as that sounds, all of those four artists have a tendency to clunk at times, and while this album is far from a clunker, or even containing a clunker, this album also reflects some of the limitations you’d get by mimicking those artists too closely instead of pulling in only the highlights from each contributor.
Producer Dave Sardy (who, even though I’ve never heard of him, has quite a storied discography) is a couple of decades ahead of his time here as this album sounds much better in earbuds than in over-ear headphones or speakers. The intimacy resulting from being inside your ear makes the gruff vocals, abrasive samples, and growling basses (there are two in this band) much more impactful. From further away you’re left with songs that congeal into a wash of one combined sound and groove early on and sit there…you can’t appreciate the more subtle touches underneath the more prominent milieu.
You can also tell Sardy has done some work scoring films, as he makes the band’s unique instrumentation (did I mention there are two basses and samples aplenty?) work cinematically. The horns in “Last Legs” act as sirens in a movie scene of a heist gone wrong, with first responders quickly closing in on a chaotic scene of confusion. “Swimming In Circles” is a Morphine-heavy dose of spookiness, and “Turning Inside Out,” with its prominent circular saw sample, is either some kind of dystopic industrial wasteland or a scene out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or a combination of the two.
I like this a lot. And I love it when I’m listening with earbuds. But I don’t love earbuds. So for me, I’ve got to find some middle ground. And that’s three-and-a-half clowns.
Mix: “Turning Inside Out”
Really Like: “Two At A Time,” “Any Day Now,” “Swimming In Circles,” “Suckerpunch”
Like: “Interference,” “Last Legs,” “Slackjaw,” “Lullaby,” “Ambulance Song,” “The Divorce”
Meh: “It Only Hurts When I Breathe,” “Money-Drunk”
Song Notes: After the jump
- Interference – some special lyrics in this one: “You’re a total blank and you’re as funny as a bank”
- It Only Hurts When I Breathe –
- Last Legs – horns act very siren-y here, like a movie scene of a heist gone wrong with first responders closing in chaotically. Is this about a character named “Last Legs”?
- Two At A Time – “You’ve been using up your lucky days two at a time”
- Slackjaw –
- Lullaby –
- Any Day Now –
- Swimming In Circles
- Turning Inside Out – really sounds like an electric saw going on in there. This is probably the album’s best song
- Ambulance Song – Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Morphine all in strong effect here
- Suckerpunch – A bit Ministry going on here. There are some crazy cool rhythms in here that very much sound like an odd time signature, though I think it’s just some crazy accents over an underlying 4/4 thing that nobody’s following…but that craziness is what makes this Really Like.
- The Divorce – the Tom Waits is strong in this one.
- Money-Drunk – Very uptempo, an outlier. Things get a little too crazy, the train comes off the tracks.