Music

The Pierces: Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge

Yes, there is a definite charm and attractiveness to The Pierces but it is revealed more through musical substance than outward magnetism.


The Pierces

Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge

Label: Lizard King
US Release Date: 2007-03-20
UK Release Date: 2007-04-02
Amazon
iTunes

When discussing and experiencing the music of sister act The Pierces, first impressions may be hard to ignore. Catherine and Alison, presently of New York though native Alabamans (The Pierces' image draws equally from parts of personas related to their past and present residences--the pair appearing both as worldly bohemians and honeyed country girls), possess spellbinding looks and a knack for creating similarly mesmeric harmonies, allowing easily for the duo to be cast in the image of sirens ready to cause the ruin of many a poor independent music loving boy.

Add the occasional instance of sensual and/or sinister lyric sensibility to the strength of the pair's external appearance and the group's initial allure becomes all the harder to forget. On The Pierces' third LP, Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge , such poetic playfulness manifests itself in several different ways. On one of the album's singles, the attention-grabbing "Boring", the sisters offer, in callous verses and cooing choruses, an inventory of activities they find tedious including various sexual arrangements and hard drugs. Provocative? Yes. Parody? Most likely. The song's audacious tone hooks listeners, thereby drawing greater concentration to the point of just how vapid the decadent, celebrity-oriented focus our society often ascribes to can be. Additionally, the lyrics of early track "Lights On" reinforce The Pierces' come-hither power as the song beckons a lover to "Make love with the lights on, baby / Tell me what you see / Clear the bed to lie on darling / Make a mess of me / Here's my dress to try on, baby / Let me be your man / I will call you pretty darling, tell me what I am." Covering the inclusion of the word revenge in the album's title are cuts like "Secret" and "Ruin" which allow The Pierces to wink wickedly at the listener and add another dimension to their charisma.

Yet, Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge is an album that is not all -- not even nearly all -- sizzle and sex appeal. There are some wonderfully rich musical forces at play here and a cursory acceptance of the record as simply some kind of attempt at creating enthralling pop hypnosis belies the overarching depth of the material. Yes, there is a definite charm and attractiveness to The Pierces but it is revealed more through musical substance than outward magnetism.

As songwriters and performers, the Pierce sisters have an undeniably keen grasp of the melodic; the pair bend and shape sequences of notes to fit each song's ultimate purpose -- some being allowed to soar, others tunneling their way into listeners' brains, so catchy they might never leave. While tracks early in the album's sequence such as "Boring", "Lights On", and "Secret" (the latter having one of those inescapable, burrowing tunes) might garner the most immediate attention, several of the album's biggest gems, possessing both melody and momentum, populate the record's final two-thirds. The best of these cuts include "Ruin", "Three Wishes", and "The Power Of…". Each track is compelling vocally and establishes the duo's ability to captivate in subtler ways.

With the direction of producer Roger Greenawalt (Nils Lofgren, Radish, Ben Kweller), The Pierces maintain splendid and eclectic artistic values which guide each song's arrangement and never allow the pair's work to be presented in a pedestrian fashion. Rich instrumentation is one of the hallmarks of Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge . The devilish whirl of "Secret" draws its energy from accordion and calliope; "Turn On Billie" (which suggests the music of Ms. Holliday as a cure-all for romantic woe) owes its appropriately jazzy feel to ukulele strums, vibraphone runs and bolstering bassoons; and the Eastern music vibe of "Lies" is furthered through the sitar and autoharp which help to accompany the Pierces' swirling vocals. The examples go on and on; instruments as conventional as violin, saxophone, and French horn combine with slide whistles and Hawaiian lap steel to augment more traditional guitar-bass-drum frameworks.

The strength of The Pierces' material and their treatment of it also allows the album to accommodate not only a variety of sounds, but styles as well without any progression or transition coming off as disparate. While the group is best known for its sharing in the ideals of roots-and-folk-based music, they display a certain level of comfort in the practices of radio-friendly pop and quirkier, more jazz-centered cuts.

At the album's best moments, when the sass and spunk of the Pierce sisters combines with their musical prowess, the result is quite an intoxicating brew. Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge is a record that impressively showcases the depth and range of its makers and should bring even brighter spotlight to the formidable talents of The Pierces.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

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.