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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Bourbon Princess
Dark Of Days
Hi-N-Dry Records

Rating: 6/10 ?

May 16, 2005
This is no place for downy innocents. Down here, the men are cruel and corrupt. Tempers flare and violent impulses are acted upon. Behind locked doors, women are beaten and violated. Desire is found in the stains of its sheets. It's where felons hide from the law and the desperate concoct hopeless schemes, thinking one big score will help them escape. This is the dangerous underworld of Bourbon Princess' third album, Dark Of Days.

Seductive and scary, Dark Of Days is a collection of black-hearted pulp fiction vignettes set to the blues and jazz noir of Morphine, and lead singer Monique Ortiz lords over it all like the madam of a New Orleans brothel. Singing in a deep, almost mannish contralto seemingly wrapped in black velvet, our lady tells tales that'd curl your hair. She begins "The Waiting Noon" with the words, "Car pulls up/it's dark outside/I hope that this is just my ride" as Russ Gershon's baritone saxophone trills psychotically in the background. As the gravity of the narrator's plight becomes all too real and the low bleat of Gershon's sidewinding sax comes to the fore, building tension. Ortiz sings, "He threw me in the backseat/shut the door and got behind the wheel of the big car" and then she asks if "we're going very far." You can guess the rest.

It reads like something off Nick Cave's Murder Ballads. There's foreboding in Ortiz's voice as she sings, "The hand was inches away from my face/Strings of glass beads dangling from fingers that shake" in "Blue Kitchen." Greed and lust coalesce as she moans the words, "I felt that hand dragging down my burning back/my face was pressed against the cash someone stashed/under floor boards." Ortiz's rumbling, elongated bass lines, the distant honking of Gershon's sax, and the skeletal, tinkling cymbals of former Morphine drummer Jerome Deupree set the mood. You get the feeling Ortiz's character is in a heap of trouble as she relates "the beads grew tight around my throat, but they didn't choke." She doesn't feel a thing at the end. Death offers her a release from his grip and she gathers strength from the warmth of the earth she's buried in.

If you're looking for resolutions and happy endings, Dark Of Days doesn't offer either. But there are other rewards, like in the title track, where soaring strings and bubbling fretless bass, courtesy of Ortiz, open the door a crack and let some light into this dank saloon. Melodies snake around you like temptation and offer you a bite of the apple, as seen on "The Waiting Noon" and "Blue Kitchen." Too often, though, Bourbon Princess sounds like a rehashing of Morphine's Cure For Pain, and there's a weariness to songs like "Cliché" and "The Hat" that weighs the record down like a pair of cement shoes. Gershon, better known as leader of Either/Orchestra, has a tendency to fall back on Dana Colley's undulating sax fills, though he can't seem to muster the same wild, unhinged energy of Morphine. Things grow weary; by the end of Dark Of Days, Ortiz's singing sounds a little strained, especially on the tepid "In Between Songs."

Ortiz has a gift for descriptive, open-ended narrative that never takes for granted the intelligence of her audience. Her bass playing is so fluid and smooth, it melts in your ears. Deupree's percussion work is amazingly subtle, adding tender nuance to arrangements that give in to the dark side perhaps too frequently, yet he doesn't disappear into the background. There's a smoky quality and unsettling groove to Gershon's sax that plays nicely off all the evocative imagery. When these elements work together, they're a heady mixture, but unfortunately, Bourbon Princess can't run from its demons - namely the comparisons to Morphine. This reputation is bound to dog Bourbon Princess for the rest of its days. You get the feeling Ortiz is trying very hard to break the cycle, but it's tough when you thoroughly adopt the manner, sound and aesthetic of a band that was so unique. That's the cross Bourbon Princess has to bear - whether they'll be crushed under its weight remains to be seen.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad



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