If Cormac McCarthy wrote lyrics instead of novels, this is what it would sound like. If Tim Burton made an X-rated movie about an avante garde, apocalyptic Wild West, this would be the soundtrack. Odd comparisons, perhaps, but Murder by Death’s new album, Red of Tooth and Claw, is so narrative, so visually vivid, that only literary and cinematic descriptions do it justice.
In their fourth album, the Johnny Cash-meets-Gogol Bordello band defines Americana-noir, ripping through 11 tunes with a sound part post-punk, part alt-country, and all decidedly dark. It is a travelogue of sorts, coming from nowhere and headed for worse. When the narrator sings about “the faces of the damned and all the butcher lands, if I had to do it over I just would’ve done it slower,” we believe him in all his delicious depravity.
Murder by Death is, essentially, a four-member storytelling machine, creating a world full of shantytowns, bitter men, prostitutes and whiskey. They could benefit from more stylistic variety—many of the songs have a very similar hard-driving feel—but the tales told are so captivating that the music itself plays the proverbial second fiddle. (Melissa Mylchreest)
Murder by Death plays Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Other Side with Butcher and the Builders and Fake Problems at 9 PM. $12/10 advance.