Rhythm & Views

The Black Heart Procession

Repeat listening is required to "get" this band's music. Once you do, though, it clicks together, and you're along for the ride through the rising and falling action, the joy and pain and the anger and love in frontman Pall Jenkins' haunted compositions and tortured vocals.

In many ways, this CD is the missing link between Greg Dulli's cathartic and dense rock confessions and Nick Cave's macabre fever-dream blues. That doesn't preclude a little Stonesy swagger, nor a little Euro-Goth posturing á la These Immortal Souls--all elements that can be moving in judicious amounts.

One of the treats inherent in Jenkins' tunes is that although they are definitely testaments to anguish, the source of that tumult is often left ambiguous, making the songs seem both timeless and universal.

Some listeners will be reminded of Tindersticks, as many of the songs feature dark cabaret-style moods conjured by piano and violin to reinforce a mood of decay in tracks such as "The Letter." In it, Jenkins sings, "In the letter that I wrote / were the words I never spoke / this is why I can't come home." It's simple yet devastating.

The funereal dirge of "Return to Burn"--which as the sixth of 11 tracks is the album's centerpiece, chronologically and thematically--uses lap-steel moans, mournful piano chords and distant, hollow drums as the ideal setting for a paean to stagnation and, in turn, renewal through fire.

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