The Long Dead Sevens The White Waltz & Other Stories

[Beta-lactam Ring; 2008]

Styles: wild west gothic
Others: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Bowerbirds, 16 Horsepower

Wild West-themed albums seem to be one of this year’s fads, attracting artists as disparate as Dan Friel and Grails. Now we have The Long Dead Sevens, who have offered an unpersuasive collection of western-themed ballads underpinned with schlocky atmospheric tricks (lots of organ, voices sent through a leslie speaker, plaintive violin, etc.) that fail to spook or enchant.

Singer Nick Cliff shares more than a monogram with Nick Cave; indeed, his entire vocal delivery seems copped from his Aussie counterpart. Unfortunately for Cliff, a mournful baritone alone does not a Bad Seed make. Lyrical chops are essential, and this band doesn’t have them. Errors include rhyming “fiesta” with “siesta” and lines like, “I’ll cut off my arm/ Do myself real harm.” Adjectives are wasted; clichés abound: “masquerading belladonnas,” “red-lipped whores,” faithless preachers, and crooked lawyers populate these songs without doing much to save themselves from stock-character monotony.

This ham-fisted writing on top of the overbearing steampunk accompaniment leads to a listening experience akin to spending 50 minutes with one’s hand in a bowl of cold spaghetti that is supposed to represent intestines: not only is the gag not all that frightening, after a while, it’s just plain annoying. There are plenty of other places to look for a more imaginative, rewarding take on this well-worn source material.

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