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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Paper Chase
God Bless Your Black Heart
Kill Rock Stars

Rating: 6/10 ?


October 1, 2004
More than any other Paper Chase album before it, God Bless Your Black Heart sounds and feels exactly like the sort of record that lead singer/songwriter John Congelton would make, which is to say that it's a producer's album. While the Paper Chase have received their fair share of attention in the past, Congleton's gotten far more acclaim for mixing, engineering, producing and remixing albums and songs for anyone from Modest Mouse to 90 Day Men to Explosions in the Sky over the last couple of years. On his main gig's fourth album, Congleton has taken his experience behind the boards and used it to make a set of songs that, on paper, is near flawless.

Like any good producer, Congleton knows how to manipulate both the tones of the band's instruments and the pop song format to create a palatable finished product. He gets off on the right foot by making these songs sound like a million bucks. Each strike of the piano carries as much foreboding as Poe's Telltale Heart, each guitar note slices through the high end to carry the gothic melodies, and each monstrous bassline is capable of giving you a hernia. Better yet, Congleton's articulate production works to make each song's melancholy more palpable; you'll struggle to find a more professional sounding post-hardcore record that still maintains as much of a hardcore feel as this one.

The songs, too, are clearly the work of a man who knows what he's doing. Congleton wastes nary a note, filling his tunes with dramatic buildups, rousing third choruses, haunting refrains, and chilling motifs. He demonstrates a firm understanding of what makes a song work by filling the album with ample hooks as well as plenty of nuance.

Yet for all of its atmosphere and structural integrity, God Bless Your Black Heart is ultimately a ho-hum affair. Sure, the songs are well-written, but we've heard Cursive and the Blood Brothers achieve better results with more spontaneity and passion. It's almost as if Congleton's constant work with the accessible hardcore aesthetic has left him unwilling to take risks or challenge any of the genre's limitations.

In addition to feeling a bit restrained, God Bless Your Black Heart really offers nothing to anyone old enough to legally purchase a carton of Camels. Congleton's theatrical, tormented troubadour schtick runs its course after about three tracks, but he keeps the drama flowing until the very last song. Even a Thursday album feels more subtle than this - hell, just look at the album's title. The Paper Chase come awfully close to crafting a bitter, brooding world, but they always fall just short, leaving us with a mawkish post-punk cabaret performance. All of the studio know-how in the world can't keep this sort of embarrassing madrigal show afloat.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan

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