Upon first listening to this Murky Crows LP I was pleasantly assaulted with driving distorted-guitar-driven music underpinned with a certain urgent intensity that, while familiar in sound, was the expression of something unique. It harkened me back to my first listen to Blumfeld’s L’etat et Moi album, for the immediate presence of the vocals in a language other than the rock ‘n’ roll lingua franca of English. This, surrounded by undulations of guitar with character dissonance forms a stimulating beginning to an album that veers off in several directions at intermittent intervals. The songs are very fleshed-out and arranged in a way that implies a narrative, whether or not the often dark lyrics agree. Guitars nicely harmonize much of the time, and before you can imagine this band being heavily indebted to any particular legend of the past such as Joy Division and their musical offspring through the decades, they provide a playful sojourn into a saccharine pop chord progression here, and accordion-powered Euro-ska over there. I’d be hard-pressed to slot them into a genre, but nor would I want to. There are hardly any soporific moments here. The scene-changes come steady, yet unpredictable.
I don’t see this band falling too deep into the trappings of current or recent indie music trends. They sound like they’re doing their own thing in their own time in their own mildewy basement, while their own families think of new ways to talk them out of it. The state of mind conjured up for this listener was similar to that provided by Pulp’s This Is Hardcore. This could be due to the dark and dramatic arrangements with punchy guitar in there when it counts.
There are forays into different styles of world music gently overlaid. They’re added in such a way that they don’t feel jarring, and still let the vocals do the work of connecting the disparate elements into what feels like a story, or at least motifs with some mass and direction. Maybe we have an opera here. If we do, it’s got tragedy, pent-up emotion and joyful release all present. The last song on the album, 詩 (shī) means “poetry”, and is in peppy ¾ time. It complements the rest of the album quite nicely by being the melancholy, yet hopeful closer to what could be the story of the life and times of our unknown heroes.
Whatever obvious comparisons arise for the first couple of tracks slowly erode with deeper listening of the album and it takes on its own set of characteristics. The arrangements are quite refined and the instruments are restrained enough to let the songs themselves do the heavy lifting. The guitars are usually just angular enough to get some attention, then they get out of the way to let the occasional keyboard in, or to bounce to a frantic section punched up by the drums. This album feels more like a whole with each listen.
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