Be careful when you Google Murder by Death. They are, according to Wikipedia, either a campy 1970s movie, or a five piece indie rock band from Bloomington Indiana. Not that you can go wrong either way, it just pays to know what you’re clicking on. Still, accidents happen. I swear I didn’t click on that.That’s my story, honey, and I’m sticking to it!
Rock in the age of cynicism and Youtube. Not long ago I was lamenting to a friend that it has been a long time since I trolled a used music store hunting for interesting new music. All too often I find myself trolling for music online, but it just isn’t the same. Gone, I feared, was that sense of discovery over a previously unknown band with a unique sound that helps to stretch the boundaries of Rock Music’s ever evolving universe. Even better; discovering the new band has been making music for a long time, and like a staring soul you gorge your senses on this new experience.
Murder By Death is just such a band. 10 or 20 years ago they’d have been as ubiquitous on FM Radio as Dave Mathews, the Goo Goo Dolls, or Green Day. Fans would be arguing about the new album, “Big Dark Love” against their classic and early works Among those arguments would be whether “Big Dark Love” is classic or a new turn for the band. But this is the age of cynicism and a Youtube culture that all too often eschews the album in this pick and choose sort of deal. Gone, mostly are the days when the listener sat through an album side, but album’s like “Big Dark Love” remind us that artists are painting a far larger world than can be captured in a single song. They are rendering textures and stories.
Murder by Death’s Big Dark Love rises from the ether far differently, but with no less power than Bitter Drin, Bitter Moon, their 2012 standout, with “I shot an arrow.” Up front and center, accompanied by Sarah Balliet’s sultry and smoky cello, Adam Turla’s rich and resonant vocals build to a stunning crescendo that hardly relents in the most satisfying ways through the albums 10 tight and highly streamlined selections. Drummer Dagan Thogerson is genius for the conservatively understated rhythm, deepened by bass accompanist, Matt Armstrong. Bitter Moon’s keyboard genius, Vincent Edwards is very capably re placed by David Fountain.
“Strange eyes,” the second track is reminiscent, in all the right ways, of “I came around, off of the last album. But there is something unique and different that separates “Big Dark Love,” from Bitter Drink,” still one of my all time favorite albums. There is an overriding confidence and a resonant emotional maturity to this album building off the last album. There is not a weak song on the album Dream in Red, I shot an Arrow and Hunted are my favorites, but I say that while breathless over balliet’s soulful undercurrent in Solitary one.
At the end of it all, Murder by Death’s “Big Dark Love” is endlessly listenable. Some of these selections ought to have a far more prominent place in Rock’s lexicon. Sadly, long gone, or soon to be long gone are the days of tripping through record and CD bins in search of a gem. Technology changes, and so does the world, but in the end it really is all about the music. In that endeavor “Big Dark Love” more than delivers and proves that great discoveries are still to be found.
Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. His new book “Shoot Down: is an unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com