School of Music Album Review | The Horrible Crowes – Elsie

The horrible crowes

Young Academic’s School of Music takes a look at Brian Fallon’s side project as the rock n rolling front man takes a break from the Gaslight Anthem.

When a band’s front man decides he wants to try something a little different with a new band, fans and critics alike normally fear the worst. It was no different when Brian Fallon announced his plans to release ‘Elsie’, which is the result of collaboration with the Gaslight Anthem’s guitar tech Ian Perkins.

In recent interview Fallon described how he felt some of the music on ‘Elsie’ would be too much for Gaslight Anthem fans to digest. That is probably a misconception on his part. There is perhaps more legitimacy to his claim that the kind of music he was looking to make wouldn’t fit on a Gaslight Anthem record. While the Horrible Crowes debut isn’t a world away from the catalogue of the Gaslight Anthem, it certainly produces results that make the listener sit up and pay attention.

The opening track, ‘Last Rites’ sets the tone of the album in many ways. A slow pensive number, it certainly backs up Fallon’s claim of the songs being hymns for lonely people. It becomes clear very quickly when listening to ‘Elsie’ that this isn’t a Springsteen-esq driving, thumping Jersey rock album. It is something more personal, Fallon’s new found balladeer style vocals singing straight to the soul.

However, the first single from the album, ‘Behold The Hurricane’ would conceivably sit well on a Gaslight Anthem album. The lyrics carried forward by meandering Gaslight style riffs still speak of hurt in keeping with the albums themes as the story of a love gone bad unfolds.

The album is influenced by the likes of Nick Cave or Tom Waits but that isn’t to say the Horrible Crowes are merely imitating, trying to produce an album like ‘The Boatman’s Call’ or ‘Tender Prey’.  The comparisons to these mighty troubadours are most obvious on the wistful ‘Blood Loss’ or the gruff, frenzied ‘Mary Ann’. Indeed ‘Mary Ann’ is the song that stands out as being the furthest removed from anything the Gaslight Anthem has produced to date. Fallon experiments with his vocals throughout the album and it is this fact that really marks ‘Elsie’ as different to the Gaslight Anthem’s albums.

Poignant, wistful, remorseful in places, ‘Elsie’ conjures up images of a man sat on his porch, glass of Jack Daniels in his hand, quietly pondering over his life and all the past loves that have filled it. The songs capture feelings of great loss, regret and broken down relationships in a dark yet striking manner. While it is undoubtedly Fallon’s lyrics and vocal performance that propel this album into the uncharted waters he wanted to take his music, credit must also go to his collaborator Ian Perkins for delivering moving, subtle riffs and tantalizing beats that compliment the lyrics so beautifully.

While nobody wants this to signal the end for the Gaslight Anthem, ‘Elsie’ is an incredibly powerful album and many fans will be hoping for the Horrible Crowes to roost together again and create more soul stirring albums in the future.

Young Academic Star Rating: 4/5

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