wears the trousers magazine

puerto muerto: drumming for pistols (2010)
January 18, 2010, 11:07 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , ,

Puerto Muerto
Drumming For Pistols •••½

As label lore states, Puerto Muerto was originally envisioned as the name for a bar, bringing to mind a drinking establishment torn from the pages of a John Fante or Charles Bukowski novel, peopled with washed up drunks and worn out women. The bar, however, wasn’t to be, so Chicago-based married couple Christa Meyer and Tim Kelley turned Puerto Muerto into a band instead. Previous musical adventures for the duo include a re-imagined soundtrack for classic horror flick ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and albums so unsavorily titled as Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore and See You In Hell, all of which might give some inkling of the dark American gothic vibes that their latest album, Drumming For Pistols, conjures without so much as flinching.

The death-rattle stomp of opener ‘Song Of The Moon’ sets the tone, the contrast between Meyer’s classically trained mezzo-soprano and Kelley’s rough and ready baritone providing the main drama. There are reminders of The Kills at their low-down dirtiest and a frisson present in the vocal duets similar to that found on the Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan albums. As the pair take off through a fictional universe peopled with sailors and whores, obscure biblical characters and deadbeat criminals, there is a prevailing blues flavour reminiscent of To Bring You My Love-era PJ Harvey or Nick Cave circa Let Love In. But this remains a background rumble rather than a full throttle roar.  Similarly, the ominous title track verges on gospel but doesn’t quite deliver on its promises to incite revolution.

Elsewhere, the vocal brass of ‘Arcadia’, the criminal’s elegy of ‘Hurting Now’, the circus stomp of ‘Beautiful Women With Shining Black Hair’, and particularly the gothic folk of ‘Seven Souls’, demonstrate a marriage of content and atmosphere that Puerto Muerto excel at. Sometimes they are less successful, allowing the mood to dominate too strongly over melody, and for all Meyer and Kelley’s attention to details like the painstaking reverb applied to the hand bells on ‘The Bell Ringer’, recorded by producer/engineer Jamie Carter, these elements can seem oddly familiar. Worse, it still feels like there is something missing. But perhaps that is simply the nature of music that provides a soundtrack to an unmade film; the space is left for our imaginations to fill in the gaps and complete the picture.

Lucy Brouwer
UK release date: 08/02/10; www.myspace.com/puertomuerto


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