The third in a sort-of-trilogy of albums, the Darcys’ Warring creates a dark, swarming atmosphere full of thick textures. Over it all, singer Jason Couse’s voice floats, the easy focal point in all the turbulence. The production attempts to locate that tension at the center of the album, with stuttering rhythms and jagged, punchy guitars crashing up against the singer’s dulcet tones. The contrast would bear more weight, though, if it wasn’t for how slick and measured everything on the record sounds. Part of its charm, for sure, are those even aural surfaces that this Canadian quintet throws our way — but that’s also a reason to find the album hard to listen to repeatedly.
Indeed, the sound here is almost hollow, as much a production issue as an aesthetic one, as if someone took a mallet and beat the tracks down to a tinny polish. The meat of the songs feels missing, which might work if the Darcys were settling for a more dreamlike, elusive sound, but it seems to me that they want these songs heard and considered as songs, not as passing dreams. Why else be loud and proud that it’s the third in a trilogy?
Speaking of the trilogy, the band gets major brownie points for their bold and strange remake of Steely Dan’s 1977 classic Aja, which surprisingly captures the somewhat buried paranoiac and alarming underbelly of the original album. (Not to mention, they somewhat cleverly avoided the pitfall of a sophomore slump.) But how or why we should consider Warring as part of a trilogy with their strange remake album and their decent debut is a question probably best left unexplored.
The band is at its best when they pick something catchy and just dig into it, over and over again. Hence, “747s” stands out with its big, robust chorus, repeated over and again. Compare that track to “The Pacific Theatre”, with its slow, balladic aspirations, and the winning formula is clear. No doubt that they have the talent and ambition, but most of the album ends up feeling forced and a little bloated.