Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Darker My Love": Music Review

My posts number 666, so I figured I'd better dash off another one quick to avert the d[a]emons. I reviewed yesterday "Darker My Love 2"-- kind of an appropriately named anti-Christ platter?-- so it's back to bloviating about their debut today. This came out two years earlier in 2006, before some of the members had the dubious privilege of being summoned as (ex-)members of the Fall club. For those not in the know, that band-- which is Mark E. Smith, his paramour (it's wife #3 now on keyboards, an attractive Greek lass perhaps a fan of Sparta F.C.), and whomever he can boss about and browbeat garage-rockabilly-house-punk-thrash-wonkiness out of-- broke down on their last American tour just when they were to hit my hometown. I had never seen them, and hoped vaguely I might. But, his opening act, this local Silverlake band from hipster L.A., stepped bravely in. Anyhow, they did the "Reformation Post-TLC" record, neither great nor awful, before their inevitable departure and "2."

Many previous listeners rated this highly. In retrospect compared to the initial reviews before the release of the follow-up: it's a good CD, but compared to "2," clearly a début on an indie label. It's full of passion and ideas if a bit awkward and raw in the actual product. It's often heavier than their second one, logically titled "2." (I reviewed that the day before I did this on Amazon.) As no previous Amazon reviewer has commented on the actual songs, here goes. "Opening" and "Post Mortem" resemble The Black Angels (both albums also reviewed by me) tribal droning or the Warlocks' gloomier delivery, as well as Jesus & Mary Chain at their most sluggish. There's also a hint of the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" backbeat.

"What's a Man's Paris" has a catchier assault to match its strange title; "Helium Heels" moves along mid-tempo, more like the songs on "2" will. "Fall" may not predict their interim period touring with and then becoming The Fall, but it does lurch about more between fast and slow, and I think the drums into the guitar interlude halfway through do capture that band's longer tracks. There's also notably a growling voice mixed deep midstream into its vocal!

"Hello Traveler" blends a Swervedriver guitar-drums-bass propulsion with distortion pedals to good effect; the vocal harmonies needed to be not so muddy, however, and the percussion reels and stumbles near the end of the song too clunkily. "Claws & Paws" stalks like a feline through a dark tunnel before picking up the pace into a livelier, if no less thickly textured, sound. "Catch" continues the sludgier mood.

"People" follows patterns from post-punks like The Chameleons or Echo & the Bunnymen, but it does not improve much on this template. "I Feel Fine" is not a Beatles homage, but it shares a woozy psychedelic ambiance. These later songs on the record all are placed correctly-- a feature that helps "2" immensely-- but they tend to drag. Fine if you're in a downbeat mood, but they weigh the album down. This is not bad in itself, but after four songs, the closer "Summer Is Here" does pound more insistently, maybe as if The Stone Roses met "Little Games"-era Yardbirds? Yet, even it ends rather oddly.

The band improves on "2," but if like me you wanted more of DML after hearing that CD, this one's strong enough to warrant purchase. You can also find some songs on the Live at Spaceland releases from summer '06 when they were the house band at that Silverlake trendy nitespot. The production's murkier, the songs show more promise than finesse, and the writing's not as tight. Still, a promising first record from a band that has since proven its progress and its potential.

(Paragraph two onwards posted to Amazon today.)

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