Murder By Death: Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

Written by September 21st, 2012 at 9:38 am

Murder By Death
Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon
(Bloodshot)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

On the surface, Murder By Death operates most like a punk band. Their strong D.I.Y. ethic has remained constant throughout their decade-long career, which includes self-releasing their own vinyl, and they’ve shared stages with bruisers such as Against Me! and The Gaslight Anthem. Yet there’s nothing explicitly punk rock about the haunted Americana balladry in which the band specializes. On sixth album Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, Murder By Death reach a new plateau in the development of their ongoing pursuit of rollicking gothic indie folk, simultaneously sounding born of an era long past yet grounded in a rock ‘n’ roll spirit that’s nothing if not contemporary. The drip of reverb guitar beneath Adam Turla’s bassy vocals on opening track “My Hill” provide a good example of why the group is so frequently compared to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds — it’s so romantically, intimately creepy that one can’t help but be drawn in by its ominously beautiful quality. “Lost River” has a slower build, yet one that reaches a soaring climax, and “Hard World” marks the rare instance in which the band actually does sound punk, come to think of it. Perhaps there are no liberty spikes or denim vests to be found in Murder By Death, but they’ve nearly perfected and sustained a decade-long career of elegantly arranged American gothic, which, come to think of it, is pretty punk rock.

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