Review Summary: A direct shot from nowhere.....
When one thinks of New Jersey in the realm of music, one conjures up thoughts of Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, and Whitney Houston. It's time to add two new names to such a list.... Brian Fallon and Ian Perkins.
These two New Jersey locals bring forth the body of work known as Elsie. A deeply personal offering laced with individuals connections to be made with every note.
Many know Brian Fallon from his concurrent band, "The Gaslight Anthem". Their unique blend of pop-rock anthems and downplayed balladry have landed them in the hearts of many after releasing a successful string of records. Ian Perkins' name may take a little digging in order to fully register in the minds of the masses, but his contribution to this record is equally proportionate to Fallon's.
Gone for the most part are the jingly, chimey guitar chords of Fallon's main project, and present are odes of woe and struggle teeming with hope and forgiveness. Where the guitars in The "Gaslight Anthem" act as the driving force of a song's structure, they now act as subtle nuances and atmospheric instigators that lend a hand to the work rather than fully embrace it. There is a haunting mixture of pianos, strings, and chilling guitars which help to make up the overall feel of Elsie.
The album opens with a whisper. An introduction of sorts which reveals what will flow into the listeners ears throughout the albums near forty-five minutes play length. The follow-up tune acts as an accurate representation of Fallon's previous work in The Gaslight Anthem, and the bridge he has crossed with Perkins in order to locate their new sound. Fallon's voice works wonders throughout most of the record. Switching between a quiet reserve, and a roaring rasp seems to be the template of his voice, but when combined with the music it takes the songs to new heights that could only be attained with such a unique timbre. A perfect example of such vocal work acts as the highlight of "Cherry Blossoms", which in itself acts as the emotional centerpiece of the record.
Much can be said about The Horrible Crowes dual songwriting prowess. The lyrics contained within this understated album give off feelings that can be felt by anyone who listens, without reverting to overplayed dramatics and cliches. Scattered throughout the disk there are some instances of wordplay which conjure thoughts of great songwriters of days gone by. Within the song "Black Betty and the Moon", Fallon Cues "I hope the money fills the holes, can see the roof is caving in." This use of imagery is commonplace within Elsie and helps us form thoughts enacting what Fallon and company were trying to express.
The album's closing combination of "Blood Loss" and "I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together" act as a pair of powerful climaxes which lend their efforts to the rest of the record. Where "Blood Loss" initiates feelings of angst and aggression, "I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together" bookends the album on a wounded note of soured relationships. Typically band's have a hard time presenting new and fresh ideas with each song that passes through our ears on an given listen. This case is untrue of Elsie to say the least. Each piece of music contains it's own personality, and once given several listens that personality shapes and evolves to include subtle meanings not found on a first listen. When given the chance, Elsie proves to be a near-masterpiece lacking in very little, and offering much more than most.