Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Dead Tongues - Desert

Album review by kev@thesoundofconfusion.co.uk


North Carolina's The Dead Tongues is essentially the project of Ryan Gustafson, and as you can expect from an American album called 'Desert', much of what we have here could fit into the alt-country or Americana brackets, but it's not quite as straightforward as that. We're instantly introduced into his world of drink, drugs, and highway signs; this album is a journey, and not always a comfortable one. Scan the track titles: 'The Harbour', 'The Desert', 'Exit Song', 'Milestone'... this isn't about settling in one place, this is a road trip, be it a fantasy or one that Gustafson himself has taken. Don't be fooled into thinking it's the same boring semi-acoustic country-rock tricks though. 'No Intentions' should put that idea to bed straight away.

So what of these tales and locations? As ever lyrics can be interpreted in more than one way, but we'll say that the story told on 'The Harbour' could be about a fleeting love affair and a girl who was too hot to handle; it's one of the most "country" songs here, but Gustafson has the lyrical ability to make it work, even if we are treated to cliches such as "climb that jagged fence... cross that county line" and other familiar hallmarks of this genre. There's a glimpse of early Neil Young about the guitar on 'Exit Song' and the lyrics speak of when times were better, even seeming to contemplate death. Happy stuff. Epic centrepiece 'Milestone' almost sums up whatever predicament the album is attempting to paint; love, lost love, sun, shade, regrets, hopes, death and a world-weary disillusionment with life.

You may be thinking you've heard all these tales before, and you'd be correct. However that doesn't make The Dead Tongues versions any less emotive or valid. 'Desert' as an album appears to be in search of some kind of fulfillment, a sense of purpose and maybe even a sense of belonging. The talk of "freight trains" is typical of a hobo's life on the road, but something more grounded seems to be what is sought. The crisp 'Depression' ("I get in depression like you get into cars driving you home") perhaps exemplifies this theory, ("where did half my life go, well that's something we'll never know"). At the end of it all there are rays of hope amongst these stories and as long as you're alive there's the possibility of a great life awaiting, something that's touched upon on 'The Desert'. Same old tales, same old sounds, but one man baring his soul will always be moving when it's done to this standard.




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