Thursday, December 8th, 2011

AMNESTY 2011: Sons & Daughters – Rose Red

This one’s a touch easier…


Sally O’Rourke: Sons & Daughters, like X before them, draw from folk and country without the tedious reverence that so often manifests itself in Americana. Instead, the band rips through its murder ballads and rave-ups with punk efficiency, creating a tightly coiled immediacy as menacing as a broken bottle and as sleek as a satin scarf. On their latest album, Mirror Mirror, they branch out to borrowing from early ’80s Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure, drawing a goth pall over their already dark material. Nowhere does this experiment succeed more than on “Rose Red,” an elliptical tale of an actual Glasgow serial killer. Here, the post-punk touches are more restricted than elsewhere on the album — mostly confined to echoing guitars, a “Transmission”-esque bassline and a few near-subliminal synth stabs — but also more shrewdly deployed, giving the track an uneasy edge without suffocating its energy. Adele Bethel narrates the song mostly from the murderer’s perspective, as if trying to reclaim the control he exerted over his female victims. She howls lines like “let’s beat, beat, beat until they want some more”; the song’s main vocal hook is her grotesque imitation of a strangled gasp. This subversion makes the song’s horror visceral, elevating “Rose Red” from the conventional pop portrayal of murder as edgy-cool to a gut-level reminder of the hate and depravity required to end someone’s life.

Iain Mew: I saw Sons & Daughters in 2004, supporting The Delgados. I remember quite liking them, at least compared to listening to the same AC/DC album three times, which was what we were treated to when bands weren’t on stage. They didn’t quite have the songs to inspire me to check them out any more though, and that isn’t changing here. The attack of the guitars and barely concealed snarl of the singer makes me think a lot of The Long Blondes and The Hot Puppies and of the fact that I would expect to like this a lot. There’s a spark missing, though, possibly because Sons & Daughters have gone just a little too far into ugliness in their sound compared to either of those. Also, this is too long.

Zach Lyon: I fell in love with their “Chains” a few years ago (obviously only listening to it in the first place because I thought it was a cover of the Cookies song) but it fit into such a clean, square indie rock classification that I was convinced it would never be worth seeking out the rest of their catalogue. I like “Rose Red” a lot less, but I’m pleased to hear this sounds nothing like the Hyundai commercial jingles I assumed their songs all sounded like. They actually pull off “not indie rock” very convincingly! But give it to a less convincing singer, or stop me from skipping over the last minute, and it’d all fall apart.

Josh Langhoff: There’s plenty to like here, especially the slicing guitar sound and the howls of the man, but it becomes monotonous and I feel bad for the drummer. They could’ve cut the second half except for the guitar solo at the end.

Brad Shoup: Our rock’n’roll district is generally considered to be on Red River — the east side’s opened some new venues in the last couple of years, but for one-stop live-music shopping, the stretch between 6th and 10th reigns. And there’s a certain kind of music (on the jukeboxes, in the sounds pouring out the doors, and the selections played while the bands soundcheck) I associate with that area. It’s a red energy, the sound of Danzig and Crucifix and Siouxsie Sioux. I’ll pay to hear it in concert, and I’ll listen to it at home, but on my nights out it places a weight on my brain I have to ignore. Sons & Daughters carries a similar danse macabre vibe: those dark atonal pings, those wild yawps, the squalling rock’n’roll guitar solo. It’s a crystallized sound, but one someone’s going to re-enact every year. But it’s a good thing I heard it here first; if I had caught this spilling out of Headhunters with the ghost of Joe Strummer on backing vocals, I don’t know how I might have reacted.

Jer Fairall: I tired of every second Brit and/or indie band trying to be the next Joy Division years ago, but this particular evocation of first wave post-punk gets it more right than most, owing much to a guitar sound that sounds correctly sharp, minimal and wiry (and Wire-y), not to mention the year’s second best wordless-squeal-as-vocal-hook. Most of what makes this work, though, is the singer’s voice, excited yet menacing, adding to the tense momentum of the track where many a post-Interpol moper might sound too bothered to rouse himself from sleep. 

Edward Okulicz: Sons & Daughters’ use of harmonies are the opposite of pretty and soothing. Indeed, their music gets uglier when both their vocalists start wailing, though as an example of this, it’s not as good as “Taste the Last Girl.” And though it’s a little on the long side, that steady, melodic bass line does a really good job of sustaining interest.

Jonathan Bogart: 1979 Siouxsie still has a lot of energy left, doesn’t she?

Katherine St Asaph: The riff is all poise and shall budge for no one; the drums may accelerate and the guitar may wander, but only the vocals are permitted the whole palette of expression. Remember what I said about precision? Hasn’t changed.

Frank Kogan: It’s 1979, okay, all across the USA. And we knew the chick in accounts receivable was secretly a punk. Turns out the entire customer service department are almost as punk as she is. Not sure they quite know it, though. They’re sorta getting together and rocking out, anyway. Going bong bong bong bong compulsively like someone’s way older sister’s old Yardbirds records. Quarterflash goes new wave. New wave for stewardesses. Would’ve thought Chuck Eddy chose this record, but he’s not on the list. (Sons & Daughters are new to me, though Wikip says they’ve been around for years. Not from the USA either, though the lead singer sounds as wired and ambitious as the top phenom in a Long Island high school’s drama club on the day she first heard Lene Lovich’s “Lucky Number” and as a result determined to affect an attack of hiccups. The stewardesses comment refers to Christgau’s review of the first Quarterflash album, which he called music for stewardesses, a designation that he assured us meant he was awestruck. I surmise that “stewardesses” signifies vulnerable and never quite hip, but with eyes to the modern skies. It was Chuck who taped me Quarterflash’s “Harden My Heart.” I didn’t expect anyone to ever make music like that again, in these days of browbeaten flight attendants.)

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