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Album Review
Dearly Departed

Dearly Departed
by Bannerman


Review Date
24th January 2012
Reviewed by
Leslie Henkel

For whom do the electronic bells toll at the start of Dearly Departed? I'm not sure, but as the album rips into the 2nd song, I’m hopeful that Bannerman might be the harbinger of something new to come charging up from the ashes of the post Johnny Cash, alt-country/indie-rock milieu. To great effect, “The Howling Wind” makes full use of those musicians thanked on the back of the album; their violin, trumpet, trombone, and handclaps conspire to make a sinisterly triumphant beginning, immediately calling to mind the deep, gruff-voiced, galloping gypsy sound of Murder By Death, but with a quality all its own. Meanwhile, the drummer lays the tracks for the mountain locomotive that will chug through the rest of the album, giving the songs a sense of steady progression and ascension, as the musical themes conversely descend and meander from that initial, white-knuckled ride.

“Brother With The Bleeding Heart” enters a darkened tunnel where lead vocalist Richard Setford transforms into a sort of diabolical Chris Isaac, skulking along to a smokey, high-hat-tempered, Twin Peaks-ish jazz shuffle. Alas, we emerge into the light for a pit-stop at “The Year That Has Gone,” a whimsical slow-dance with rumblings of early Radiohead felt underfoot, and then back into the Chris Isaac tunnel with “Take Time.” I appreciate that Setford's cough is kept in the recording; it imparts a sense of honesty and camaraderie with the band, as if you've been allowed into a live session. This familiarity works quite well with the following song, “There Rose a Flood,” which rasps, co-conspiratorially, over the sound of dripping water and chirping birds, that “I'd let you drown if I thought that would help you to live,” and picks up into a shimmering piece of moody, yet potentially radio-friendly alt-rock that carries into the next few songs. “Rocks Are Just Lonely Hearts” and “Machines” are the sunniest, yet most conventional tunes of the bunch—which, considering my comparisons for these are late 90's Pavement and Social Distortion—isn't the worst backhanded complement in the world.

The last two songs, “I Was Only Having Some Fun” and “My Private Grief” complete an all-around compelling album, vacillating from a darkly sentimental ode that mixes finger-picked guitar with a volatile, probing electric, to a gently subdued confession/rumination over beautifully sparse instrumentals. In summation, though Bannerman is not doing anything especially innovative for rock at the moment, there are enough gems on Dearly Departed to happily keep it in your shuffle, and enough talent to keep you listening as they grow and progress for albums to come. Who knows, maybe one day you'll be boasting that you saw them in a pub and still have their first album, while they're busy playing sold out amphitheaters. It could happen.


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