Meanwhile, Back in Communist Russia
My Elixir; My Poison


3.5
great

Review

by Richard Craig USER (120 Reviews)
March 16th, 2009 | 8 replies | 4,849 views


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist


2 of 2 thought this review was well written

If you’re reading this review there is probably one reason, and one reason only, why you are reading it – the name: Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia... How ***ing cool is that!? Before listening to them you’d be forgiven for having the impression that MBICR (as I will refer to them from now on) are a light-hearted, comedic affair. If that’s what you think then you would be wrong. Dead wrong. The now deceased Oxford-quintet play a fairly generic, but still captivating, form of post-rock but still manage to remain unique. They do this by vocalist, Emily Gray’s poetry being added to the mix. Softly whispered throughout it makes her tales from the gutter all the more poignant and mesmerising.

On their second and last album, ‘My Elixir, My Poison’ they pretty much follow the same blueprint that they had for their debut ‘Indian Ink’. On this album however, it is more sparsely notated creating a bleaker atmosphere. Ultimately, this works well as the mood matches Gray’s lyrics but this comes at the expense of more interesting compositions. In each and every song on ‘My Elixir; My Poison’ the vocals are the highlight/focal point – even though they are often indecipherable due to their hushed delivery. This is particularly the case on shorter tracks such as ‘Realization’ which is remarkable only for the prominent use of a double bass, and ‘Cusp’ which improves exponentially once the vocals enter the mix.

While Gray’s vocals do indeed make the album what it is, when they are not backed up adequately by the music their impact is somewhat lost. For example, the guitars at the start of ‘Roses For Her’ are so quiet that they are nearly rendered inaudible and so the vocals sound awkward when they are as good as on their own. In fact this is the only track on the album that is worse off for having the vocals, as the flourishes of piano in the track and the sections following these are by far the most worthwhile components of the track.

‘My Elixir, My Poison’ has a very wintry feel to it, and this is partly achieved by the sparse notation of much of the album, but also partly by the use of instruments such as xylophones and pianos. On a track like ‘Anatomies’ the cold timbre of the xylophones segueing into a warmer, almost loving, piano riff works brilliantly, and would do so even without the vocals. The tense, delicate riff running through much of ‘Heliotrope’ is just as cold, and is just as effective. However, the track is overly one-dimensional and could have benefited from having a more varied dynamic range. Songs like ‘Chinese Lanterns’ and the closing ‘Heatstroke’ on the other hand make great use of dynamics, the former being the more abrupt of the two, quickly shocking the listener out of a lull that the gentle music before the shift had created.

Album closer ‘Heatstroke’ is without a doubt the highlight of the album as it builds dynamically, and almost menacingly, towards the terrifying conclusion where the guitars delivers a final, haunting shriek. It is the perfect conclusion that is subtly wrought with Gray’s inner turmoil – much in the same way that ‘Indian Ink’ was. However, while she is the focal point, her quiet vocals are so spellbinding that for the most part you cannot recall what the lyrics were – even only a couple of seconds after hearing them. The effect of this though is that the album leaves you in a trance like state as it is so soothing and hypnotic. ‘My Elixir, My Poison’ was Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia’s final album, and was a great end to a too short career. Mesmerising and cathartic, it takes an alternative approach to post-rock and so sounds very original and unique as well as really, really good.



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user ratings (18)
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3.8
excellent
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Indian Ink

Comments:Add a Comment 
Minus The Flair
Emeritus
March 16th 2009



862 Comments


Indian Ink is awesome but I never really got into this one. Part of me felt they wouldn't be able to top it so I didn't really give it a chance. Review convinced me I may have missed out on a great record though, so I'll give it another shot. Good job.

natey
March 16th 2009



4170 Comments


These guys are pretty ok.

Mendigo
March 16th 2009



2299 Comments


nice review. I like Indian Ink a bit more, but this is great as well.

robin
Emeritus
March 16th 2009



4223 Comments


got this, but i still havent really brought myself round to listening. great review.

SeaAnemone
March 16th 2009



18823 Comments


I have a new favorite band name.

AggravatedYeti
March 16th 2009



7684 Comments


'Indian Ink' was really really good, I should pick this up sometime.

Skimaskcheck
April 16th 2011



2360 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this has finally started growing on me properly

AnotherBrick
April 16th 2011



9766 Comments


lol Bitchfork



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