DARKER MY LOVE – Alive As You Are (Dangerbird)

Having been mightily impressed with Darker My Love’s last album ‘2’ I grabbed this one straight away before I even read the reviews. Had I not been so quick I might have been more prepared for the abundance of jangly guitars and the late 60’s West Coast feel that permeates most of these tracks. Having succumbed to several line-up changes in the period between these albums, the band have used the opportunity to drastically revamp their sound, opting for the aforementioned West Coast vibe. Opener ‘Backseat’ is a case in point, being Grateful Dead to a tee, with its three part harmonies and chugging guitar. ‘Split Minute’ has a nice Byrdsian tone to the guitar-work, and a definite 60’s feel to the melody, all enhanced by a great fuzz-guitar solo and effective organ-work. ‘18th Street Shuffle’ is an energetic boogie, with just a hint of Krautrock in the repetitive bassline, and the guitar solo cuts through the dense backing like a knife. In contrast, ‘New America’ is a laid-back country-ish piece, very much influenced by early Grateful Dead, and features some nifty guitar picking. ‘Rain Party’ is resplendent with harmony vocals and a gently meandering tune, and is a most convincing Moby Grape impression, while ‘Maple Day Getaway’ melds a Beatles-style rocker with some acid guitar and a sheen of Byrds harmonies, all topped off with a nice slice of slide guitar. ‘Trail The Line’ brings to mind Teenage Fanclub – but then they always had a healthy respect for the 60’s, so no real surprise there, and ‘Dear Author’ jumps forward a decade for some great 70’s heavy rock. ‘A Lovely Game’ keeps up the pace with a thumping piece of bar-room boogie, and then things are slowed right down for the aching ballad ‘Cry On Me Woman’ to close the album. After the initial shock of the first hearing I quickly grew to love this album, as late 60’s US psychedelia has always been a favourite of mine, and this is a lovingly crafted tribute to that great period of American music. If you come to this with an open mind – whether you know the band from their previous work or not – then you should find much to enjoy here.