The Horrible Crowes

Elsie

Written by: PP on 12/10/2011 06:31:09

The Horrible Crowes is an outlet for The Gaslight Anthem's vocalist and primary songwriter Brian Fallon to explore his introspective side that has more to do with Tom Waits, The Afghan Wings and PJ Harvey than Bruce Springsteen. It's a side-project he has formed with his guitar tech Ian Perkins, one he has assured all Gaslight fans will not come in the way of touring or new albums, one that he'll only work on during his free time. That may very well be so, but many Gaslight fans will still scratch their head over the inclusion of songs like "Behold The Hurricane" on their debut album "Elsie" because of how impeccably similar they sound to the slower songs from "American Slang".

Indeed, much of the music by The Horrible Crowes bears such close similarity to "American Slang" that the purpose of this project overall is drawn into question. However, the real question is whether that's not just the product of Fallon's golden throat, one of the most unique and instantly recognizable voices in music anno 2011, because at least half of "Elsie" consists of minimalistic pieces that are semi-acoustic by their nature, where Fallon's voice is the only thing guiding the listener through the songs. In that sense, it's a real songwriter's album, and one that differs from Gaslight by being much softer and more delicate in its sound, despite the numerous allusions to topics also explored in Gaslight's material (the whole 'old boys' theme, the long night drives, etc). There's also a much greater focus on the lyrics, and if it wasn't clear before, it is now: Brian Fallon is one of the great lyricists of our generation.

Still, it has to be said that Fallon always sounds his best when his voice strains to a halfway scream in a display of raw passion and charismatic shouting, such as during the best moments on Gaslight's first two records. On "Elsie", "Go Tell Everybody" is one of those highlight moments where you're absolutely convinced of the laid-back star-quality Fallon has in him. Unsurprisingly, it's also one of the tracks which you couldn't distinguish from an "American Slang" track even if you tried, alongside "Crush" and "Mary Ann", though the latter is heavier and quirkier than you're used to hearing from Fallon in the past. If anything, the contrast offered between these tracks and the minimalistic pieces like "Cherry Blossoms" underlines that humming softly over acoustic strumming is just inherently less interesting than full-power Americana singing from the top of your lungs. So while "Elsie" is a good album, if you came into it looking for a "'59 Sound" or a "Sink Or Swim", you're out of luck. It does, however, beg the question to be asked: what will the next Gaslight album sound like? Might this be Fallon getting the slow and soft stuff out of his system to pave way for another punk-influenced masterpiece?

Download: Behold The Hurricane, Go Tell Everybody, Mary Ann
For the fans of: A quieter version of "American Slang"-era The Gaslight Anthem, Tom Waits, The Afghan Wings, PJ Harvey
Listen: Soundcloud

Release date 06.09.2011
SideOneDummy

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