Funeral Club - The Year of the Bloody Sevens
Owain Paciuszko 14/08/2010
Funeral Club were formerly known as The Grizzly Owls and their ep I Am A Shootist was one of last years more interesting, if flawed, releases.
Now rebranded and with an extended line-up they unleash this sophomore LP, opening with the Old West meets Velvet Underground The Arrival of the First Woman, it's driven by the vocal of Jenny Andreatti, over a background of electric guitar, weary drums and misty atmospherics. With a neat repetition of the previous tracks guitar sound The Ballad of Frank is a livelier number, still with one foot in the late-70s rock underground and the other in a stirrup. Their songs are pleasingly sparse and stripped of bark in their arrangment, with some clever flourishes here and there, such as Jenny's dopplering coos on this track.
God's Own Medicine is a strong number bearing similarities to the Gothic folk of acts like A Hawk and a Hacksaw, with a beautifully placed saxophone segue in amongst the repetitious and bleak echoing vocals. And Our Moonshine is one of the record's first duff notes, it sounds a bit like Debbie Harry in a Country and Western karaoke lounge and lacks the genuine feeling that makes even their more 'cliched' moments on other tracks work, this feels like a photocopy of Americana and is a disappointing stumble just about the halfway mark.
The Hatchet Song defiantly keeps going like a wounded gunman, it appears to be building towards something, but Funeral Club either exercise restraint or aren't sure where to go with it, I can't really tell. It's a fine tune, as if Nico replaced Nick Cave for a day. Meanwhile the title track features lightly played acoustic guitar and soft bells inbetween its warbled verses with shimmering harmonica. It's got a good driving rhythm, but the music seems a little at odds with the vocals and lyrics and the song works its best when it's just an instrumental.
What Has He Done? has a swish of wah-wah atmosphere at its outset before lurching into a deliciously cool bassy strut, drums keeping the pace with the kind of swagger we all wish we had. Choruses are at odds to this, ethereal and confused, a peculiar contrast, but one that works well, especially once we hit that verse again. Alas, despite being consistently good, it never really finds anything beyond these two neat styles and isn't quite the stand-out it promised to be. Closing track I Am A Shootist is a relic from another era, it sounds both unreal and totally familiar, fished from the well of time and has Jenny squawking and squeaking like Kate Bush, it's bizarre but it works.
Funeral Club are making music to a model, an old dusty model, a truly American model, and they do it very well. Sometimes as a listener you may yearn for a few more 'modern' ideas to push their way to the surface, or for the band to build upon their sparse arrangments and give them some cinemascope, but that almost be against the purpose of their sound. Despite the name change they are still very much their old selves, cemented upon the band's core duo, husband and wife Jenny and Joseph Andreotti. There is a definite alternative-folk scene that this band slots into so perfectly, yet their sound would definitely make them stand out, and hopefully they'll continue to develop their music for a long while to come, because there is great promise in everything they do, they just might be a little way off from realising it yet.