Thursday, December 29, 2011

Album Review: The Black Swans – Don’t Blame The Stars

The Black Swans are an American band and this album released last May is their fourth. A bit of background required here: the album was recorded just prior to violinist Noel Sayre’s death in 2008, and his final recorded work with the band can be heard here. What will polarize many about this band are singer Jerry DeCicca’s vocals, which are a decent substitute for Stuart Staples. This has the effect of making the band sound like a more country and soulful version of Tindersticks. Also polarizing are DeCicca’s spoken word introductions to many of the songs, which are a little annoying, talking about his soul heroes (Joe Tex), his childhood memories and his dreams. So what of the music? Opener Boo Hoo sounds like the band had been listening heavily to Neil Young’s Comes A Time, but most of the rest of the album is pretty much soul music, down to the call and response backing vocals and Jon Beard’s organ. This applies to the aforementioned Joe Tex, the title track, and the semi-pisstake I Forgot To Change The Windshield Wipers In My Mind, as close to Tindersticks doing country as you can get. Later, Mean Medicine crawls along pleasingly. The most enjoyable tracks are the ones where they deviate from this formula. Sunshine Street, dominated by Sayre’s violin sounds like something off The National’s Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, and is darker than most of the material here with some downright raunchy guitar. Less successful is the jaunty Worry Stone featuring a ‘gargle solo’. Yes, you read that right. Blue Bayou rescues proceedings with a fantastic clean electric guitar lick running through the song, which survives a spoken word dedication to Roy Orbison, Iris De Menthe et al midsong. Despite singer Jerry DeCicca’s pretensions, this is not a bad effort. It’s all tastefully unhurried, great if you like that sort of thing.