Lucid Culture


CD Review: Melomane – Look Out!

The long-awaited product of Melomane frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s ongoing “disaster song cycle” is a masterpiece, not only one of the best albums of the year but of the entire decade. As good as their 2007 cd Glaciers was, this is even better: it’s the New York art-rock band’s greatest shining moment, in the studio anyway. Lushly orchestrated with layers of strings, guitars, keyboards and a propulsive rhythm section featuring the brilliantly melodic Daria Grace (also of the Jack Grace Band and her own, rustically romantic project Daria Grace & the Prewar Ponies) on bass, this cd looks at the apocalypse from many different angles, some of them as ominous as you would expect, some less so. Look Out! stares death square in the face: death by war, volcanic eruption, flood, global warming, collision with space junk…and flame, at least metaphorically. 


The cd kicks off somewhat counterintuitively with the stately, blackly humorous The Shadow of Vesuvius, something of a noir cabaret number given a slowly bouncing rock treatment, marching along inevitably to its doom. The cd’s second cut Darkness Rising, a brooding meditation on the logical extreme that a dictatorial regime leads to, is a long, intricate epic punctuated in places by searing, anguished, somewhat Gilmouresque guitar from multi-instrumentalist Quentin Jennings. The cd’s best cut (and perhaps the band’s best-ever track), O Mighty Orb begins with slow, pitch-black piano, markedly slower than the version the band plays live, building inexorably over a slinky, chromatic bassline, slashing keyboards bright against eerie reverberating guitar. Black humor comes to the forefront here again with the song’s brutally sarcastic trick ending.


Meteorite, a surprisingly gentle, countryish 6/8 ballad also begins quietly and builds, bass climbing against the guitar and vice versa: “The destruction of the whole human race brought by a glimmering shower,” Gailland muses stoically. After the scathing antiwar anthem Battlecat, a flamenco-inflected number in 5/4 time, the cd closes with Je Suis une Alumette (I Am a Match), a tongue-in-cheek song about the romance between a cigarette and a match, the Paris-born Gaillande’s first-ever song in French. Guest vocalist Eleni Mandell is merveilleuse, and of course there’s a laugh-out-loud if somewhat obvious musical joke when its moment arrives.


Thirty years ago, bands this good, this intelligent and this enamored of soaring, epic grandeur would be all over FM radio and would be playing stadiums around the world. Until that happens again, you can get this cd online or at shows: Melomane play Thurs Oct 2 at the Bell House, 149 7th Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn, 9:30ish, on a bill also including the excellent M Shanghai String Band. 

September 25, 2008 - Posted by | Music, Reviews

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