Dan Boeckner and his wife/girlfriend/whatever, Alexei Perry are releasing their second album, Face Control, on Sub Pop Records under the Handsome Furs moniker. The first outing had a lot of interesting moments, carried mostly by Boeckner’s voice. Interestingly enough, you don’t find the band breaking new ground with their latest release.
The instant the album kicks off with “Legal Tender” one will immediately note that the beats on this round are a lot more prevalent than on the last outing. That’s not to say that Dan doesn’t throw in some slicing guitar licks, as he surely does so on this track, but they seem merely as extra moments. It’s as if the beats support the entire infrastructure of the songs, while the guitar seems to be an afterthought.
Still, one has to question whether or not this is enough to carry an entire album’s worth of songs. Answering this question will more than likely divide a lot of people, as the better tracks coming from this album, such as “Talking Hotel Arbat Blues” or “All We Want, Baby, Is Everything,” are really fantastic, displaying how some of the more thought out moments on the album can rise above the simplistic formula.
And yes, there is Boeckner’s phenomenal voice. As part of Wolf Parade, he’s pushed his voice to the limits, sometimes letting his voice curl into a bit of a yelp. This is not so on the Handsome Furs work, where we find him restraining himself quite a bit, allowing for the vocals to pull out every ounce of emotion from both his voice and the listener. Clearly the power of his voice is capable of serving as the backbone of an entire album, but probably not as the sole focus of said album.
“I’m Confused,” for instance, relies upon Dan entirely, using his voice to carry the entirety of the song until his guitar work angularly cuts through the background of the song. It’s an interesting sound, but it fails in the fact that it comes across as if the whole song was just merely a momentary thought; it has no flesh or filling. This is not what one asks for in such cases. Sadly, this is the feeling a lot of listeners will be left with when listening to this album all the way through, time and time again. There are moments when you can’t help but to be taken aback by the songs, but other moments exist when you might ask for a bit of density to the songs, a little exaggeration if you will.
You’ll come to the end finding that you’ve enjoyed the album as a whole, most notably for previously mentioned tracks, but you won’t find yourself dying to listen to it over and over again, only asking yourself questions about whether the band could have done more to fill some of the blank space that stands motionless throughout the album.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/03-talking-hotel-arbat-blues.mp3]
Download: Handsome Furs – Talking Hotel Arbat Blues [MP3]