Music

Elvis Perkins in Dearland: The Doomsday EP

Photo by Hilary Harris

The folk-rock EP features two takes on the same "dirge".


Elvis Perkins in Dearland

The Doomsday EP

Label: XL
US Release Date: 2009-10-20
UK Release Date: 2009-09-21
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The Doomsday EP features two versions of the same song, "Doomsday", with four other tunes sandwiched between the ostensible dirges. The folk-country songs fill a much larger space than their separate parts suggest. These are the songs that are the essence of rock 'n' roll. "Stay Zombie Stay" and "Stop Drop Rock and Roll" combine the country, blues, and African roots that the first instances of rock 'n' roll merged. Buddy Holly and early Elvis Presley might as well have cut records in the same studio as Mr. Perkins -- there's a reason Mr. Perkins and Mr. Presley share their first name. He must have inherited the raw rock 'n' roll spirit and dreamy voice. But, in fact, Perkins is the son of actor Anthony Perkins, of Psycho fame, who passed away from AIDS while Elvis was a teenager. Elvis's mother was aboard one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center.

A version of a shape note piece from The Sacred Harp, "Weeping Mary" appears with a modern take. The beginning a capella multi-part vocal harmonies are as Southern Baptist as it gets. There is even some call and response. And then the electronics hit. The first few sparks from Perkins's guitar signal the splendor that will soon commence. The kick drum speeds the rhythm immediately before what seems like every instrument plays forte. The guitar even gets a jangly rock solo. Then, as slowly as the beginning started, the end diminishes. The vocals are so hushed that the tone feels somehow holy. One does not have to be Christian to appreciate the timelessness of this piece.

Perhaps most important are the beginning and end pieces to this EP. The two takes on the same song work very well in this case. The first version starts softly and speeds into a lighthearted jaunt, unexpected given the subject matter. Wyndham Boylan-Garnett's tired trombone stands starkly alone as the track begins. Then a shimmering strumming leads the track into a heavy kick drum, various percussion, and a more stout horn. Perkins's vocals offer a bit of solidity in a constantly rushing call to life. "And though you voted for that awful man / I would never refuse your hand on doomsday". The collective exuberance of the chorus sounds both joyous and zen at the same time. Perkins sings, "Oh I don’t plan to die / Nor should you plan to die", sounding like general celebratory revelry, perhaps around a campfire or bar counter. A particularly cutting bass-line by Brigham Brough sounds like a sousaphone leading the most animated marching band in the world.

The "Slow Doomsday" has more of a sluggish waltz to it, which feels more dirge-like than its sister track. The heavy-hitting, punctuated drum beats and rolls of Nick Kinsey give that extra push. The organ (Boylan-Garnett) not only sounds gorgeous, but fills the song with a more religious tone, while the trombone brings a bit of dirty New Orleans to the funeral march. And like some funeral progressions aim to, the feeling left with the survivor is an uplifted sense of being, a resurrection of optimism. In the end, both versions of the song impart some of the same sounds and feelings to the listener despite their differences.

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