The Darcys | Warring | Rating: 8.2/11 |
There is much to be said for having an intimate knowledge of a band’s history when you decide to take on their latest body of work. From their discography to the band members names to their favorite breakfast cereal, such knowledge tends to provide a framework of study and reference – musically speaking, of course. But not everyone is familiar with the four Canadians known as the Darcys or the fact that this particular album is the third installment in a trilogy.
But even if you’re clueless to the previous installments, don’t let that stop you from taking Warring on because, truth is, this album does, and needs to, stand on its own. In less than 42 minutes The Darcys wreak a dense and beautifully cinematic havoc that, no matter the abstract trail occasionally taken, remains dramatic and sturdy but still lush and pliable so that it can bend without breaking off course. The sonic affair gets kicked off on a chilly note as Jason Couse’s icy falsetto, the piano push, Wes Marksell’s lamenting drumbeat and an abundance of cavernous sound make “Close To Me” a forceful and fulfilling opener. The clarity and sound detail on Warring seems to be just as important to the package as a well turned lyric, a soulful backbone or the clipped guitar work in “The River” becoming the track’s guiding light. Once the echoing voices move into “Pretty Girls,” whether accidental or intentional, The Darcys strike a very TV On The Radio-esque chord (think “Wolf Like Me”) only with cleaner edges as the agitation that often comes from more abstract musical art is kept to a minimum throughout the album. This stuff is called ‘art rock’ for a reason; in the listening you hear songs that are more meticulously ‘designed’ rather than simply written but they still maintain rock’s elemental nature of boldness. Grandeur is grasped and, for the most part, achieved. Just when “Hunting” bursts with an energetic aggression and a buzz saw of a bass line The Darcys slip into a sleek and pristine groove of “Horses Fell.”
This is dreamscape material unfolding layer by layer for intense observation. Understand that this is not lighthearted work: it’s an album for which greater appreciation grows with each subsequent listen. The fluctuation between heady and languid is, in itself, a kind of tension that is somewhat imposing because you may find yourself unsure of how to absorb it, if not how to feel. If this album has a weakness, perhaps it is the emotional distance that even its best tracks (“Horses Fell,” “The River, “Lost Dogfights”) keep the listener at despite the grandiose moments (although the choir-like offering of “Lost Dogfights” is redemptive). Warring is focused yet so oddly wide open (but not so much that it digresses into obscure or aimless indulgence) that you can absolutely understand the length of time that it took for these guys to get it done: three years. Perhaps this is The Darcys consciously warring against or exorcising personal and professional inhibitions that are creativity-killers, after all this is a band that took on Steely Dan. Not by merely covering one of their songs but by covering an entire Steely Dan album (AJA) and doing it in their own image. No, really, The Darcys did that.
Hearing these songs live may be the truest test of how well and how long this album will stand up for The Darcys over time, but Warring is, indeed, a formidable piece of work for the foursome in the vein of an opus (which was their intention) where they foster an ambitious and intelligent cool amongst the pretty drama.