December 08, 2003

Desert City Soundtrack "Funeral Car"

Funeral Car, Desert City Soundtrack's debut album, is a bit problematic. They rightly built up a great deal of momentum and interest when they released their debut EP, Contents of Distraction. Mixing morose atmospheres with beautiful, engaging instrumentation--built around a very dark piano sound--it was a too-short record that quickly stunned and left you wanting more. Now, with their debut album, they have progressed far beyond those humble beginnings--all in a year's time. Impressive!

On first listen, Funeral Car didn't have the overwhelming power Its bleakness just seemed to bleed together into one big massive downer, and other than that, it just seemed too miserable to penetrate. I just couldn't really get into it at all, and I was disappointed that the band had sunk down and drowned on the one or two aspects that made their first record so wonderful. Though I expected bleakness, I didn't think that it would be possible to turn bleakness into blandness, and to be honest, I felt a little bad, because I'd had such high expectations for them.

So I set the album aside and I came back to it a few weeks later. Though it didn't knock me over, I did notice nuances that I had missed before. For instance, I noticed that the piano's place in the background would rise and fall in such a subtle manner that it gave the songs a certain depth that I'd never notice before.Trumpets and other horns would also do the same thing. I didn't notice them before, but once I recognized the minute rising/falling backing vocals and instruments, Funeral Car started to grow on me. I then set it aside again, because I still hadn't warmed up to it.

When I came back to it again, I listened to it on headphones. To say that it blew me away would be a major understatement. All those nuances that I noticed before? They weren't so little this time--they were overwhelming. The screaming background voices of "Drowning Horses" sounded as if they were coming directly from Hell. The sublte fading voices and pianos on songs like "Dying Dawn" and "Take You Under" only add to the overall sinking feeling that you get while listening. By the time I made it to the grand finale of "Westpoint," I felt utterly down and out and bummed beyond belief, but the twiknling piano was actually quite uplifting, and though I felt horrible, I didn't mind the journey.

Funeral Car is not an easy listen. It's bleak, depressing and morose--heck, how could it not be, with titles such as "My Hell," "Drawn & Quartered," "Casket," "Something About a Ghost" as well as that album title? Though it took me a little while to finally warm up to Funeral Car's bleakness, I have to admit that I was impressed enough to realize that Desert City Soundtrack have made one stunningly dark album. Comparisons are going to be made to Black Heart Procession; their overwhelming piano and the bleak outlook on life may be similar, but they're pushing the envelope with the occasional horse reference/image.

Desert City Soundtrack have made a totally original, unforgettable record, one that should not be taken in heavy doses--unless, of course, you want to cross over to the dark side. Unless, of course, you're wanting to get in touch with your goth roots, and in that case, turn off the life, pour yourself some absinthe, crank Funeral Car to eleven and make yourself miserable--just don't say "bloody mary" three times.

--Joseph Kyle

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