Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, May 23, 2005


No solos on the record. No improvising. Everything is drum-head taut. A punk sort of asceticism to it, a dramatic control, or a drama of control, the fight for control depicted in the songs, dramatized in the band’s playing.

The one about the grabbing the lion’s tooth and fighting him (his step-dad), with the gorgeous cello line and the dramatic tag line -- “I hold on / For dear life” -- tonight the song brought tears to my eyes. Expert, tense martial rhythm throughout, a dramatic bridge, and the story ends with the protagonists clenched in their fight, the singer’s face hot with tears, and suddenly the pronoun switches for the last chorus, “And we hold on / For dear life.” It’s the pronoun switch that brought the tears, the recognition that as horrible and violent as his step-father can be, he’s a goddamn human being too, and life, life is precious, it’s got a clawing root in each of us, and us in it, and we hold on.

Great dramatic singer. The ultra-controlled arrangements and crystal enunciation make me think of a grim musical sometimes. It’d be a helluva movie. Overwhelming.

The melodies and harmonies can be limited and repetitive over the course of an album, but Darnielle can write a hook, and the arrangements have a nice variety. If the record had a single, it would be the song with the refrain, “I am gonna make it through this year / If it kills me,” with its jaunty, peppy, almost sodapop tune and its dark, taut arrangement working together to highlight the hope and the grimness of the sentiment.

Also admire: Some of the songs are SHORT. Two verses, no refrain, done. Very cool.
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