By Michael Petitti
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 10, 2005
It boggles the mind that Toronto's The Deadly Snakes haven't made the same splash many of their Canadian counterparts have. They've been at it longer than most of the current mainstays (Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene) enjoying major success in the U.S., yet somehow they continue to glide under the radar.
If 2003's Ode to Joy was the band's masterwork of garage-soul-gospel-blues-rock, then the recent Porcella is a minor - yet no less engaging - step backward.
Listen to It
8 out of 10
The Deadly Snakes
In the Red Records
The Deadly Snakes march to the dual charges of singer/songwriters Age of Danger and Andre Ethier, and both are equally able frontmen. However, on Porcella, the band has ditched the shrieking guitars and guttural yelps in favor of Tom Waits-esque, spooky pop and blues to mixed, mostly positive results.
Ethier remains the force to reckon with, whether he's doing a blues stomp ("Debt Collection"), junkyard ballad ("High Prices Going Down") or Stax-tinged rocker ("Oh Lord, My Heart"). His lyrics remain fierce and emotionally animalistic as he barks and moans in a manner reminiscent of a truly anguished Bob Dylan. In the Motown-esque waltz "So Young and So Cruel," he sings, "You've seen my black books, in leather/The point of their toe could pierce your flesh/Oh yes I'm really so young/Yes, I'm really so young/So young and so cruel."
Meanwhile, Age of Danger is a more nasal but no less commanding singer. Plus, he is responsible for two of the album's standout tracks, "Gore Veil" and "A Bird in the Hand (Is Worthless)," both of which benefit from creepy flute loops evocative of demented '60s pop. Danger also deserves credit for his lyrical flourishes: "Some things are cast off/And some things are kept/A pocket of silver/A lover's caress/There's one thing I've heard that I'll never forget:/A bird in the hand is worthless."
In contrast to the successes on Porcella, the flaws are minimal. Certain songs, like the lazy country rocker "Let it All Go" and the reverb-drenched "Sissy Blues," are merely less memorable outings.
However, if you've ever wondered what it would sound like if Nick Cave and The Zombies had a lovechild, Porcella is your record. Better get on board before another Canadian gem is exposed to the blinding lights.