DARKER MY LOVE Alive As You Are (Dangerbird)
Having been mightily impressed with Darker My Loves 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 60s 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 60s 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 60s, so no real surprise there, and Dear Author jumps forward a decade for some great 70s 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 60s 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.