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Lucyfire | This Dollar Saved My Life at Whitehorse | review | Tiamat | goth | rock | Lollipop
This Dollar Saved My Life at Whitehorse (SPV)
by Scott Hefflon
Tiamat's Johann Edlund has been shedding his dark'n'grisly metal tendencies for some time, originally sounding kinda Celtic Frost (and I mean that as a compliment), then shifting toward Pink Floyd delicate sparseness, and recently, toward full-on Goth metal. And with this side project, Lucyfire (which Johann, like every other artist, claims is not a side project, but a whole, separate, equal entity), he goes straight for the dancable Goth rock jugular.
While Goth purists may shirk away squealing "Ewwww! Too many guitars! Too many chugging guitars!," I think those pale-faced pansies can go sulk in a dark room with no calenders and fingerpaint the ceiling black like it's 1985, baby...
There's just something stiffly Gothic about some bald German guy monotoning over throbbing beats, swelling keyboards, and yes, guitar chords held long and dramatic (so metal guys can put their foot up on the monitors and point over the heads of the crowd), sometimes punctuated by butt-wiggling rhythms (think Billy Idol's "White Wedding"). One intriguing aspect is, um, humor. German humor is, I believe, an oxymoron. I seem to recall a Beck's commercial that showed a dry stand-up comic failing miserably, and then stating that at least German's know beer. Right. Another thing I always think of as kinda German is the joke that asks "How do you get a nun pregnant?" "You fuck her." Ha ha.
But yeah, Johann's broken English stiff-leggedly saunters through rockisms like "Baby Come On," the opening track, and a line in "Over & Out" whose chorus is iron-hitting-anvil precise "crooning" of "Sex, fire & twist & shout & o-ver & out" with all the Aerosmith rock dynamic of, well, some dour butler baby-stepping through an antique shop. Another rocker gone wrong (and I mean that lovingly, I play this sucker loud'n'proud, a playful snarl on my lips just daring anyone to ask what the hell I'm listening to so I can tell them and they'll have no idea what I'm talking about, thus proving my superiority once again - just like watching reality TV shows and Jerry Springer to derive sick pleasure from watching people significantly less evolved on the glowing box cuz it's cheaper than going to the zoo and it smells, well, perhaps a little better in my living room) is "Automatic." I have no idea what the song means, but it's got a snappy beat in a Billy Idol swagger sorta way. The Cult also comes to mind, "Sweet Soul Sister" howling and all that silly/cool spiritual nonsense. Hell, gimme Agents of Oblivion and their "Dead Girl" serenades any day, but seeing as they broke up and are slowly stewing in New Orleans obscurity, not to mention most people have never even heard of them, well, whatthefuckever...
But the baddest of the bad (to the bone) is the Springsteen attempt of "Perfect Crime." I'll pause for a sentence to really let the addition of Bruce Springsteen into the Billy Idol party rock and German stiff-legged Goth vocals sink in... Did ya shiver? Ok then... The song is about robbing a bank and running away to the Cayman Island with your best girl by your side. Has a kinda John Cougar vibe, very mid-'80s Americana, like a convertible car commercial with smiling faces and bare feet in the air and all that, but Johann's voice is, well, is rich, round, and German. John Cougar Melancholy? And, of course, there's the dead-giveaway cover of ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man." Between this cover and the title (a quote from Donald Duck's Uncle Scrooge), you get that there is humor here, it's just not Americanized, over-miked, and cranked-to-11-so-the-folks-at-home-know-something-funny-just-happened humor. Duh.
The shining moments, as always, are where Mssr. Edlund broods and contemplates, and even if he rocks out, he does it in the style of "The Pain Song," the first single (there's a hidden video for it on the CD), and a song showcased on Nuclear Blast's Beauty in Darkness Vol. 5, a series you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand. "Mistress of the Night," "U Can Have All My Love 2nite," and the Poe-inspired "Annabel Lee" are all pleasantly dark, mid-tempo rockers, littered with dramatic riffs, spooky keys, smooth melodies, and sometimes kinda goofy lyrics, but they don't compare to "The Pain Song," and the second half of "Baby Come On (She's a Devil of a Woman)" which sounds a lot like what Type O Negative's done a few times, blending basically two songs into one. But Peter's voice is a lot deeper.
The plodding Gothic sobber "As Pure as Sin" is simply a gem from any angle. Simple, huge, slow, like a dark, surreal wedding video filled with rain, long, billowing curtains, leaves floating lazily in the current, and Beautiful, Tragic Beauties spinning longingly, lovingly caressing walls of blackened stone, and writhing in sheets of silk.
One obligatory note of warning: I've followed Tiamat's decade-long evolution from dark, guttural metal to Goth cock rock, and with the exception of misunderstanding one record (A Deeper Kind of Slumber, a necessary stepping stone from the classic Wildhoney to the transcendent Skeleton Skeletron, but one I feel no need to backtrack to listen to now that we're beyond it), I've been with them the whole way. So if ya wanna jump right in, well, it might not mean as much to ya cuz yer missing all the history. So while I recommend Skeleton Skeletron and a record on either side (Wildhoney to show where it came from and this Lucyfire record to show where it spun off to), feel free to follow your own dark path; I am but your soberly-dressed tour guide with a wicked glint in his eye...