Release Date: Mar 10, 2009
Record label: Beggers XL
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative, Singer-Songwriter
Elvis is perkin’ upThe third-most-famous singer named Elvis has hired some permanent players, and this record marks a grand union that sounds more like a band’s debut than a melancholy singer/songwriter’s follow-up. With 2007’s stripped-down Ash Wednesday, Perkins proved he could write a damn fine song. Here, he dresses his music in full regalia—with whistles, horns, organs and marching-band drums—and it’s exquisite.
"I don't let doomsday bother me; do you let it bother you?" asks Elvis Perkins, drawing a line between the downtrodden elegance of his 2007 debut and the rustic, sprightly Americana that energizes his second release. Perkins still writes about death, having lost both his parents to tragic circumstances, but he does so with a sort of homespun grace, turning the funeral dirges of yesteryear into cathartic celebrations. Supported by a proper band and a veritable heap of instruments -- including horns, pump organ, clarinet, and banjo -- Perkins tackles a number of rootsy styles here, from the brassy New Orleans bounce of "Doomsday" to the old-timey chamber pop of "Send My Regards to Lonelyville," whose climax involves a tangle of saxophones, tuba, strings, and brushed percussion.
Fine as it was, Elvis Perkins’ 2007 debut LP Ash Wednesday struggled to match its peerless opener ‘While You Were Sleeping’, a graceful tapestry of notions both fleeting and epochal. Redressing the balance then, Elvis Perkins In Dearland is less a follow-up than a vibrant resurgence – a debut of sorts from its eponymous creators (responsible for bringing the aforementioned to life on the road). Perkins himself considers it a “faster and younger” cousin of its forebear, and he’s pretty close to the mark: from pronounced upright bass through to the flourishes of marching drums, organ, brass and woodwind adorning its predominantly acoustic landscape, it exudes poise and swarthy romanticism.
It's a pretty bold move to move on to a full-band project after releasing just one well-received solo album. But Elvis Perkins has done just that on Elvis Perkins in Dearland. It isn't that much of a step out -- his name is still in the title -- but with a new and lively band behind him, Perkins has stretched his musical muscles and bulked them up with another compelling batch of songs.
Sometimes the tragedy in an artist’s history becomes so overwhelming that it takes over the narrative of their career and its output. When you are born the son of a famous actor who suffered and died of AIDS, you ache in one way. Losing your mother in the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, is an entirely different world of suffering.
Think of Elvis Perkins' music as a feat of structural engineering: Despite the massive weight of its cargo, it still manages to float, even cruise. His grief-drenched 2007 debut, Ash Wednesday, explicitly and covertly referenced the death of his photographer mother in the 9/11 attacks and his actor father's from AIDS complications a decade earlier. Yet the record wasn't really depressing.
Elvis Perkins has an incredibly sad backstory. His famous actor father, Anthony, died of AIDS-related pneumonia when Elvis was a teenager, and his mother perished aboard one of the fateful 9/11 flights. These tragedies informed much of Elvis's solemn 2007 debut, Ash Wednesday, making Elvis Perkins In Dearland feel quite sunny by comparison. [rssbreak] Not that it's all roses and blue skies on the New York-based singer's follow-up.
If Elvis Perkins' 2007 debut, Ash Wednesday, was mournfully tinged by the memory of his parents (actor Anthony Perkins and photographer/9-11 victim Berry Berenson), then his follow-up feels more like a proper celebratory wake. Perkins' funereal, imagistic pull still haunts the album, but bolstered into the Elvis Perkins in Dearland fourpiece, the eponymous LP lopes with a processional gait, especially the chain-rattling reverb of "I'll be Arriving" and New Orleans-styled horns and jug-band stomp of "Doomsday. " Opener "Shampoo" yelps out a declarative, "Sweep up, little sweeper boy," as if in response to his debut's ashes and dust, while "I Heard Your Voice in Dresden" echoes Herman Dune's quirky folk-pop melodies, and "Send My Fond Regards to Lonelyville" repeats the nasally twang of Clem Snide.