Monday, September 26, 2011
THE HORRIBLE CROWES: ELSIE
When I read that Brian Fallon was swapping his Springsteen denim jacket for a Tom Waits fedora, I feared the worst. Truth be told, the last two Gaslight Anthem records were both pretty boring. I tended to latch onto one or two hit songs and ignore the rest - not for lack of trying. But when it comes to The Horrible Crowes, Fallon's been scoffing soul food again, writing off-the-cuff, "night time" music with guts and feeling, not let's-play-dress-up, working class rock for the masses.
The leap from Sink or Swim to The '59 Sound was a huge one. Gaslight Anthem's sound seemed to age a decade in one year. But, unlike Gaslight Anthem's sudden-found, smooth-edged bravado, Elsie is dark, moody, and uncertain - a heart-sapping ballad for the brokenhearted. Atmospherically, it reminds me of Gaslight Anthem's 2008 EP Senor and the Queen; painting a picture with feelings, textures and unforced emotion.
At times, backed by co-pilot and guitar tech Ian Perkins, the album skirts the dark, sombre territory inhabited by suited Ohio indie rockers The National. I picture a hand clenched into a fist but never striking, just smothering a rush of blood to the head and waiting to turn back into a hand again.
But overall, it's just a surprisingly solid (and interesting) collection of songs, from the tempered pop sensibility of "Behold the Hurricane" and the Clash-inspired reggae grooves of "I Witnessed a Crime", to the soulful gasps of "Go Tell Everybody" and howling garage jam "Mary Ann".
"Sugar" and "Blood Loss" remind me the most of Senor and the Queen. "Ladykiller" houses the Fallon rasp that seemed all but diluted. And "Behold the Hurricane", a catchy pop song with an open wound, sounds like The Gaslight Anthem, only better. Mostly, I feel sorry for the rest of his day job band. It seems like Fallon held his best songs back. Or maybe it's the influence of Perkins that threw caution to the wind...