Friday, 6 July 2007

Album Review: How It Ends

It starts, inauspiciously enough, with a strummed acoustic guitar. What follows on How It Ends is a fantasy of drunken gypsy weddings with noirish, debauched delivery flourished with accordion, sousaphone, theramin, tuba, piano, bouzouki, strings and tenor triangle.

Although centred on Eastern European folk, How It Ends is an unusual mongrel of klezmer rhythms, mariachi trumpets, punk guitar surf music drums and romantic strings.

Second track, The Enemy Guns, offers tense, distorted guitar riffs, before horns and Nick Urata's unsettling tenor turn it into a disorientating spaghetti western. The song's military drums clatter into No One Is Watching, which itself is twenty-five seconds worth of battle and loneliness.

The glockenspiel of Dearly Departed sets a soothing lullaby tone, but Urata's suffocating croon as he mourns for a love gone away is totally despairing ("I miss your heart beating next to mine / flesh of my flesh, soul of my soul / come back home"). Later, Urata harmonises with himself on This Place Is Haunted, while it means the lyrics are often unintelligible, we hear the laughter of children, likely ghosts of the place, before the song abruptly ends.

Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny Of...) is a bowed, basque-flavoured instrumental; Twenty-Six Temptations is a wallowing and brooding tale of love and loss; and Such A Lovely Thing offers suspicion, violence and doubt in its four-and-a-half minutes.

Despite all the depression and gloom amid the lyrical dramas, this is not a joyless listen. The characters in the songs might be dead or missing, but the band are energised, gothic and exotic. An Eastern-bloc party, if you like.

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