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Review: IN BOCCA AL LUPO by Murder By Death

posted on April 3, 2007 at 3:46 am · filed under Reviews

For the most part, these reviews are going to be positive. I’ll warn you now, I don’t see any point in pointing out mediocrity to you. If a project is so fucking bad you need to be saved from experiencing it, I’ll throw that up here too. But mostly, if a project is so fucking GOOD, then that’s what I’m going to talk about.

This one’s that fucking good.

in boca al lupo by Murder By Death is my first taste of these cats’ music, so I can’t place this in any sort of context relative to their artistic growth. But I can declare them artists, which ought to count for something.

They’re a strange mix. Almost goth, thematically, and there’s a female cello player who adds to that feel, with teeny little moments that almost remind one of Rasputina.   Every song on the album has a plot that’s either dark, cynical, or both. But outside of the cello, the sound is very rockabilly-esque, making them a perfect fit for the schizophrenic tour on which I saw them, directly between the Tossers and Reverend Horton Heat. Still, rockabilly as a genre tends toward up-tempo short songs with relatively simple lyrics, and outside of a few forays into up-tempodom, that doesn’t describe anything on this disc.

It’s a little bit redneck, a little bit goth, a little bit rock, and a hell of a lot of morbid fun, in short. “Dead Men and Sinners,” the third track, reminds me of Frankenstein or The Thing, or maybe even a Herman Melville novel, with its tale of doomed sailors standing out from the rest of the album both musically and thematically. Most of the rest of the album is about the people I grew up with – poor white trash digging their own grave but not cognizant of that fact until it’s too late.

Prison’s pretty common, as is bloodshed. Track four, “Brother” isn’t just a damn fine drinking song (the singer told me it would be perfect for Mother’s Milk, and damn if he wasn’t right), it’s a beautiful tale of the “good son” trying to deal with his brother’s crimes, and decide what’s more important: loyalty to family, or self-preservation. I’ve been both brothers at one point or another in my life, and the song sends chills down my spine.

There’s no question which track is the MOST moving, though. “The Big Sleep” is the lament of a life-long criminal, facing execution, exhorting his family to move on and forgive him for being a bad seed. A good half of these songs make me shiver, but this one really gets me. “Shiola” is damn close to the emotional impact, but isn’t as accessible to me quite, as I am not sure I really get what’s going on. That’s probably listener error, but there ya go.

The whole album is solid, and the tracks aren’t just all good, they’re all good companions to one another. Any single song from in boca al lupo is great, but as an album, in cliched terms, it’s greater than its parts.

I tend to describe “band x” as “band b meets band y” – there’s a certain amount of grey area allowed for as you imagine it, which is good because there’s simply no way to describe music in concrete, abstract terms, but it also gives you a good idea of what to expect. I’d have to describe this one as Nick Cave meets Johnny Cash, if I’m only picking two, but I have to say that my system breaks down here. It’s more complicated than that, because it’s that unique. But if nothing else, that should tell you how good it is. It’s damn good.

Official Website

Murder By Death on MySpace

Video for “Brother” on YouTube

— devlocke

3 Comments

  1. grammar nazi, April 3, 2007:

    Album titles should be italicized; song titles go in quotes. Also, you should write an e-mail to the band with each review and ask for permission to host an MP3 with the writeup.

  2. devlocke, April 3, 2007:

    Oh, for god’s sake. Fine, I’ll go on ahead and fix the italicization…

    Ehn, actually it’s good to know. As to the other, if it’s a band that doesn’t already have a relatively large body of work online, I’ll do that, but I was actually just getting ready to add links to their stuff online.

    So anyone who reads these two comments will have no idea why they’re there, because it’ll all be fixed in about ten minutes.

  3. Jeremiah, April 4, 2007:

    “I know there’s better brothers, but you’re the only one that’s mine…” Hah! Great.

    Also great is the movie Murder by Death. Very funny. Makes fun of a half-dozen great detectives, including Columbo.

    Anyway, I liked the video.

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