Black Dice

Broken Ear Record

Blood on the Wall


Various Artists:

Think Differently Music: Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture



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Porcella is a huge step forward for former garage rockers The Deadly Snakes. While they have been one of the more musical and eclectic bands from the garage scene since 1999’s Love Undone, and 2003’s Ode to Joy showed the band spreading out and perfecting their craft, Porcella is a whole other ballgame. Here we find the Toronto sextet with a grab-bag of songs shaded with horn and string arrangements, odd rhythms, and unusual instrumentation. As for the approach, despite the appearance of a couple of rockers, they navigate slower and more mysterious territory. Porcella sits in a unique spot – somewhere between the lines of organ-based 1960s bands such as the Zombies, the Animals, and the Doors and a sort of songwriter style that it sometimes recalls Nick Cave or even Dylan. Nowhere does the band rip off anyone directly - but there are places where they sound like they’re in Muscle Shoals, Big Pink, or even Tom Waits’ current studio.

While it has taken me some time to get used to this record – particularly the vocals - I've found myself misteriously returning. And now I’m totally hooked. While they will remind you of Van Morrison for a moment, soon there will be a melodic or harmonic twist that will make it all their own. Overall, Porcella can be seen as a raw contemporary take on sixties pop. And, like Sixties pop, there’s all kinds of soul, downhome blues, country, folk, and even somewhat experimental parts within. The band is comprised of super accomplished musicians and the arrangements are surprisingly intricate – particularly the ones involving the horns and strings.

There isn’t a song on here that doesn’t contain something interesting and the good ones are border on brilliant. “200 Nautical Miles” and “High Prices Going Down” are arranged in a similar fashion to Forever Changes or Pretty Things’ Emotions. “Sissy Blues,” not to be confused with Ma Rainey’s 1920s song with the same name, is a triumphant horn-driven rocker that comes off a lot like Them or the Stones. “Gore Veil” is the true hit of the album – a more complex, dark, and interesting “Needle and Pins” with some more Love-style orchestration. “Work” is dominated by a big complex rhythm but is also a perfect pop song. “Banquet” stands out as the fastest and most dissonant on the record. And “A Bird In the Hand (Is Worthless)" will remind you of Leonard Cohen - lyrics withstanding..

It takes big balls to go out and attempt something like this and I have the utmost respect for this bunch who are, after a decade, one of the better bands out there. Though the vocals and lyrics, now that they are up front, need to attain the sophistication of the music, The Deadly Snakes are moving in the right direction. With all of the other Sixties-influenced music going on out there as I write, this dark one, which is neither garagy and oiled nor folky and feathered, feels the most authentic by far .



© New York Night Train , 2005