Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reviews:: The Unsettlers

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Like most Waits fans, I take comparisons to his catalog very seriously. A worn rough, whiskey soaked voice often paves a path for lazy segues, forced similarities and metaphors about death, drinking or that moment spent on the devil’s door. And while Montreal outfit The Unsettlers can easily fit those classifications (even delivering an unexpected, breathtaking ballad - Signing Off On The Sleepiest Eyes – that much like a Waits record, seems to be harnessed out of thin air), the macabre loving band is writing original material that deserves to be judged on its own merits.

Instead of ramshackle, industrial percussion, the band uses reed instruments, funeral horns and guitars to form their sound, but more importantly, they add beautiful harmonies to contrast the beat poet diction that drives the songs. B.W. Brandes manages to toe the line between funhouse barker and bar room poet, and gives the songs a sense of childlike whimsy that mixes with the dark shadows of eternal rest and the searing intensity of brimstone and hellfire and pushes the mood in a refreshing direction.

While the band can certainly make interesting beats by banging on pots, pans, toy pianos and typewriters, I’m more won over by their classical musicianship. An uncanny understanding of when to add horns, clarinets and mandolins lets the band jump from the vocal gymnastics of Red To Black (which honestly sounds oddly like You’re Beautiful by James Blunt before jumping into the melody) into a slinky cabaret bar number (No No No Yes) and right back into an Absinthe fueled carnival theme (Heavy Handed) without ever losing the listener.

There are not too many bands that could pull off such bold decisions so well, and this debut record deserves your attention.

Posted at 8:50 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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