28 February 2008

CD review: Bad Luck City - Adelaide (2008)

"I am stealth, I am secret, I've got a cover and I'm going to keep it."

So goes the line in Bad Luck City's song "Stealth." But it's hard to imagine this band's music really staying secret any more than one could imagine anybody staying seriously undercover "hunting ETs and chupacabras...by moonlight and candelabra."

Like many of the songs on the album, "Stealth" is serious and spooky, but balanced with a smart sense of humour, albeit something of a tragic sort of giggles. Light and dark take turns so deftly they almost seem the same thing. "Stealth" is about a self-proclaimed demon hunter, drink by drink and verse by verse, becoming more blurred as the story moves along until the demon and hunter blur into union. The layering of Hayley Helmerick's (Monofog) and Dameon Merkl's vocals brings a captivating and insidious execution to this song. But with no less than ten guaranteed FCC censor's heart attacks, this song won't be sailing the public airwaves.

From the slow and haunting melodies to the heart pumping, crescendo rising ones, every song on Adelaide is threaded with a delightful sort of creepiness. Weaving the line between recitative and ballad, the lyrics deliver stories of a longing stalker in "Suffer the Day," the forlorn "Widow Frances Colver," a regretful morning after "The Night Before" (a great cover of the Lee Hazlewood song) and the tragic tear-jerker end of a race horse "Distaff." All these, vignettes and snapshots of dark but lightly familiar characters and scenes. The music likewise, inseparably surrounds and carries the words. Even the artwork on the cover reflects Adelaide's setting of mysterious and dramatic places captured in a manner of playful yet elegant pencil-line accuracy.

With six people in the band not counting the additional vocalists and players of piano, trumpet and such on the recordings, you might think there'd be some unruly scrapping for attention and center spotlight. But no. Musical deference prevails. Pair that musical courtesy and talent with the remarkably clean mixing of sound and everything comes out sounding great.

Photo courtesy of Bad Luck City.
Album cover artwork designed by Jonathan Till.

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