Wednesday, 20 July 2005


Album: Drunkard's Prayer

When Time Out reviewed Madonna's American Life they counted the number of times her lyrics used the words I, me or my. Observing that she referred to herself every ten seconds the reviewer argued that self-obsession wrecked the record.

At the time I thought this was insightful. It seemed self-reference drew the boundary between the albums I liked and those I didn't.

Such an analysis fails on Over the Rhine's new album.

You might consider how formulaic an album is. With just a couple of exceptions the songs on Drunkard's Prayer alternate between opening with a single strum of an acoustic guitar and a long piano chord. They're quiet songs meant to be played loud, steeped in the tradition of 'beautiful heartache' that Over the Rhine play so well.

But there's something more going on here.

First time through the opening track seems trite. On its own I want you to be my love, 'neath the moon and the stars above isn't going to win any awards. But by the time you get to the end of the record the significance of its simplicity is breathtaking.

This first track lays out the manifesto: love, and a relationship to be worked on. For forty minutes we follow this relationship tumbling towards breaking point before climbing back up to the penultimate track whose opening line — My memory will not fail me now — is a defiant, triumphant lament with hope cut deep in its wounds.

It's a tough record to listen to. Its quiet, simple songs are tightly packed with gut-wrenching emotion.

You'll cry. You might not play it that often. It won't be the most enjoyable thing you've heard all year. But it might be the most honest.

Highly recommended.

Posted by pab at 20:19 | Comments will be back later in the year. Please email me instead!