Music

Darker My Love: Alive As You Are

The band’s range compresses and the panoramic visions of its earlier albums reduce to a window on a garden, a nice view for a few minutes, but not as satisfying as a bracing expedition up peaks and down canyons that their other records took you through.


Darker My Love

Alive as You Are

Label: Dangerbird
US release date: 2010-08-17
UK release date: 2010-17-26
Amazon
iTunes

As with the psychedelic movement’s drift away from density among many of its original hitmakers, so with its followers. The back-to-the-country appeal by 1969 or 1970 lured the Grateful Dead and the Byrds away from West Coast urban pressures towards gentler pastures. They stripped down their lysergic or cerebral textures and let the fresh air in.

Darker My Love does the same on their third album. Their self-titled debut marked a neo-psych record that rivaled the best of the past 20 years of musicians who expand on what that decade started; 2 bettered the first album by a diversity that recalled late Beatles blended with a crunchier, heavier space rock and a post-punk atmosphere. This had been boosted by some of the band being recruited mid-tour when the Fall took them on as their backing band after, them being the Fall, most of its members left suddenly near the terminus of a 2006 tour in Darker My Love’s hometown of Los Angeles.

As with Angelenos cosmic cowboys Beachwood Sparks and 60’s garage-protopunk revivalists Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Darker My Love shifts away from drone and depth in their third outing. Like those two predecessors, however, this marks a retreat rather than an advance. This album opens with “Backseat", a lively ditty which sounds so much like the Dead that listeners may think it a bonus track from a reissue of Touch of Gray The pace steadies as seven out of 11 tracks continue in this mode, which will please anyone wondering if American Beauty or Workingman’s Dead may need performers able to deliver a note-for-note re-creation for a tribute concert. This is solid music; no song falls short of this pleasant, sunny mood.

But it’s a long way up, or down, from the massive assault that created an amazing second album. Fans who may want more of that intensity must seek out the Spaceland releases made at a series of summer 2006 sessions at that L.A. club, made even before 2 in 2008 had bettered the studio debut. That follow-up’s first four songs attest to their command of the songcraft that combines energy with dynamics.

Dynamics are muted on Alive As You Are.The calm mood defies the album’s cover art that features a mascara-rimmed Beatle-haired fop moping behind purple-shaded shrubbery. Instead of gloom, we get glee. This album prefers a casual approach to its return to the decade it loves. While a competent record, the band’s range compresses and the panoramic visions of its earlier albums reduce to a window on a garden, a nice view for a few minutes, but not as satisfying as a bracing expedition up peaks and down canyons that their other records took you through, reminding one of another L.A. exponent of dread and doom, the Warlocks, or Austin’s percussion-heavy messengers of overload, the Black Angels.

A few songs manage to suggest other '60s influences besides the Dead. “18th Street Shuffle” starts with a “Run, Run, Run” riff that smacks of the Velvet Underground and the vocals match its druggy feel. “Maple Day Getaway” keeps the Dead’s shuffling pace, but adds a bit of pedal steel recalling the Byrds’ country-rock period. “Dear Author” recalls “I Am the Walrus” in its beat, and “A Lovely Game” hints at the Kinks as well as fellow revivalists Lilys and more British vocal mannerisms.

But these and those Dead-like songs pass rapidly on a short album that feels for a band this talented as if dashed off rather than constructed carefully. The talent remains. But Darker My Love can do better if it wishes to show us how it can incorporate its skills into reshaping more challenging material that 2 and the Spaceland tapes have proven in a very convincing way.

5

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane
Music

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".

Music

Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.

Music

Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.

Books

On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.

Music

Alt-pop's merci, mercy Warns We May "Fall Apart"

Australian alt-pop singer-songwriter, merci, mercy shares a video for her catchy, sophisticated anthem, "Fall Apart".

Film

Tears in Rain: 'Blade Runner' and Philip K. Dick's Legacy in Film

Blade Runner, and the work of Philip K. Dick, continues to find its way into our cinemas and minds. How did the visions of a paranoid loner become the most relevant science fiction of our time?

Music

London Indie-Poppers the Motive Impress on "You" (premiere)

Southwest London's the Motive concoct catchy, indie-pop earworms with breezy melodies, jangly guitars, and hooky riffs, as on their latest single "You".

Books

Vigdis Hjorth's 'Long Live the Post Horn!' Breathes Life into Bureaucratic Anxiety

Vigdis Hjorth's Long Live the Post Horn! is a study in existential torpor that, happily, does not induce the same condition in the reader.

Music

Konqistador and HanHan Team for Darkwave Hip-Hop on "Visaya"

Detroit-based electronic/industrial outfit, Konqistador team with Toronto hip-hopper HanHan for "Visaya", a song that blends darkwave and rap into an incendiary combination.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.