Whenever a rock band decides to incorporate the darker elements of life into their music, most of the time, the results are pretentious. Sometimes the band can put enough force and confidence behind it to pull it off, creating beautiful and cathartic music, but those who fail, fail miserably, creating laughable results. The Dark Fantastic seems outside of those rules. Although they sounds like a band that wants to play goth music but can’t quite figure out how to do it on Goodbye Crooked Star, they work and they work well.
Lead by the deep voice of Mark Pickerel, The Dark Fantastic brings maturity to their angst-filled music. They are a band for those that outgrew their teenage years without outgrowing the emotional mood swings. Elegantly melancholy, Goodbye Crooked Star lives in darkness without wallowing in it. Instead, it sounds like the late-night reflections of a band that is facing their pain with thoughtful intelligence.
With haunted guitars and world influences, Goodbye Crooked Star is about both what is said and what is unsaid. Always searching beneath the surfaces, The Dark Fantastic just wants to find meaning in the things that have happened to them. As he travels down the street where an ex lover lives, Pickerel sings of “following midnight back roads to places I shouldn’t go” on the reflective “Your Avenue”. Later, he considers the appeal of dwelling sad emotions. “We thought we’d live there forever, and we almost did,” he sings on “When Night Lost Meaning”. Although The Dark Fantastic has a tendency to weigh themselves down in these thoughts, they don’t feel exaggerated for the sake of drama. There is a sense of genuine honesty, in both the lyrics and Pickerel’s voice.
Goodbye Crooked Star doesn’t provide much in the way of hope, though. Despite the beauty of this album, The Dark Fantastic has a way of becoming a bit oppressive. While it’s a perfect album for a rainy day, it’s not going to lift anyone’s spirits. The Dark Fantastic seems to enjoy the darkness, but at some points, they make for hard to listeners to do so also.
The Dark Fantastic does have enough good points to outweigh the bad overall. Bringing an unusual thoughtfulness to despair, Goodbye Crooked Star is an unexpected surprise. It’s not uplifting, but it’s likeable, and that’s an impressive combination.
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// Notes from the Road
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