Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Red and raw

crooked fingers - 'red devil dawn'

released: january 2003
merge records

1. big darkness 2. don't say a word 3. you can never leave 4. bad man coming 5. you threw a spark 6. boy with (100) hands 7. sweet marie 8. angelina 9. disappear 10. carrion doves

Some records are better enjoyed in a certain state of mind. Despite its consistent quality that has made 'Red Devil Dawn' a weekly revisited record of mine since its release in 2003, it's clearly an album for the brokenhearted. Not that Eric Bachmann's band (now performing solo, after an outrageously beautiful first album, 'To The Races') have ever been a bundle of laughs, but there's a strangely euphoric quality about this album's sadness, an almost resigned, contemplative weight of the spirit that can suddenly break into song for a little while just because a pretty bird passed overhead.

It's the storytelling that does it, too. Bachmann can sound deeply personal in his lyrics, going to the point of naming names (Angelina in, well, 'Angelina', Cary in 'Disappear'), but nevertheless all the stories manage to hit you straight through the heart. It's not an easy ride. There's loss, like in 'Don't Say A Word': There ain't no easy way to lose the heart you call your home, Bachmann's raspy but warm and honest voice softly proclaims over the acoustic background. There's the coming to terms with that loss and even finding redemption, like in the mentioned 'Disappear' and this shattering chorus: Cary don't cry I'm gonna disappear /And take this sorrow far away /So you can live your life /No need to ride through salt tracks of sad tears /There's beauty in an ugly thing /Redemption in demise. There are sad people, there are broken people and mistreated people, like the mysterious girl whom the boy with (100) hands tries to reach. There's even a bit of creepy menace in the oddly beautiful 'Bad Man Coming'.

None of this would matter if the music did not keep these moods, but it does so brilliantly.
Bachmann's voice is seemingly fragile and vulnerable but never goes past the breaking point and he delivers his lines with a rare emotional poignancy. You get the feeling that these sombre acoustic songs, with the occasional flourish like the Spanish feeling of 'You Threw A Spark' or the rocking 'Big Darkness', would get the messages across even without those lyrics.

Suitably enough, it ends with 'Carrion Doves', an elegant and elegiac song, apparently about someone hanging on a decision that could change the course of love. There are victims to be made / Decisions to be weighed / You're guilty now but in your heart / There soon could be a change.

Change your heart. Go get this record.

the good: almost palpable emotion, elegant heartbroken songs that remain with you for years
the bad: nothing, really, but stay away if you want something jolly to listen to on a sunny afternoon

song of the day:
'Boy With (100) Hands'