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Album Review: The Horrible Crowes - Elsie

The Horrible Crowes, for those that don’t know, are the ‘night-time music’ side-project of Gaslight Anthem man, Brian Fallon and the band’s English guitar tech, Ian Perkins. Citing influences such as Tom Waits and Nick Cave, as well as describing the band in the aforementioned way, has left many thinking that ‘Elsie’ will be something starkly different to Gaslight’s albums, and in places it is. There’s an EP’s worth of starkly different musical endeavors here, while the rest of the album is made of low-key songs and a few tracks that could be Gaslight b-sides. Inevitably however, as with most of Fallon’s work, ‘Elsie’ is still a top quality album.

As the first notes of the wistful and morose opener, ‘Last Rites’ kick in, Fallon’s vision of writing an album of songs suited to the night is fulfilled. It’s easy to picture a man in a high-backed chair with his tumbler of whiskey, wistfully reminiscing about past loves. In fact, there is an overriding tone of regret and remorse to a number of songs and to Perkins’ credit the music he has composed to accompany Fallon’s lyrics is perfectly suited. Subtle guitar riffs and delicate drums weave together beautifully as Fallon wistfully laments that “all good things must come to an end” on ‘Cherry Blossoms’. It’s moments like this where you really get a sense of the creative inspiration the two guys clearly provide for each other.

A scattering of lines such as “God’s gonna trouble the water” on the excellent ‘Crush’, give the album an old-time Gospel feel at moments, and adds weight to Fallon’s description of ‘Elsie’ as hymns for lonely people. His voice is allowed to flourish on ‘Elsie’ and is really the driving force on many of the songs, due to the subtle intricacy of the instrumentation. The gruff howl that lavishes Gaslight Anthem’s work makes an appearance on a few songs, particularly on the tracks where some of his band mates appear, such as lead single ‘Behold The Hurricane’ or the equally as good ‘Go Tell Everybody’, but it’s when Fallon experiments with his voice where the tracks really excel. ‘I Witnessed A Crime’ is one such track. Fallon almost talks his way through it, whilst a Hammond Organ plays in the back. It sounds like the Clash at their most experimental and is also strangely reminiscent of Rancid’s ‘Arrested in Shanghai’, it’s essentially a masterful piece of songwriting.

It’s fair to say that on the whole, The Horrible Crowes are bang on point with ‘Elsie’. There will be a few that don’t think it’s gone far enough and others that will be bored by the more complex tracks, but most will lap it up and long for more.


Dan Issitt

‘Elsie’. is out now on SideOneDummy Records.

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