Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

After Ten Years, Ninth House Finally Record Their Masterpiece

Long-running New York rockers Ninth House have been through as many incarnations as David Bowie or Madonna. Over the last decade, they’ve played ornate goth-tinged art-rock, straight-up punk, rockabilly, and even went through a brief jamband phase. Their new album 11 Cemetery & Western Classics finds them digging deep into frontman/bassist Mark Sinnis’ signature Nashville gothic songwriting style, and they’ve never sounded better: track for track, this is the best thing they’ve ever done. It’s a welcome return to the hard-hitting, stripped-down sound they first mined as a three-piece over ten years ago, with the added advantage of now having former Gotham Four frontman Keith Otten on guitar. He’s the best lead player you’ve never heard of, ripping through one intense, fire-and-brimstone solo after another, yet also just as likely to toss off a tongue-in-cheek rockabilly riff or poignant, plaintive washes of sound if a song calls for it, over the rumble and swing of Sinnis and drummer Francis Xavier.

They kick it off angry and bitter with Fifteen Miles to Hell’s Gate – “From New York City, the one that drags me into a hole,” Sinnis rages in between Otten’s alternately sparse and anguished leads. The relentless, doomed, pulsing Funeral for Your Mind features one of the most spine-tingling solos on any rock record this year; the fatalistic, tango-inflected Fallible Friend has a trumpet section that adds a spaghetti western feel, Otten’s savage, sardonic guitar a perfect complement to Sinnis’ cynical lyric. Otten’s countrypolitan guitar blends warmly with Susan Mitchell’s rustic, pastoral violin on the swinging Nashville gothic anthem The Room Filled Beyond Your Door, while When the Light Blinds and You Die takes a gospel melody and imbues it with suspenseful Steve Wynn-style psychedelic atmospherics.

A couple of tracks here date from the band’s landmark 2000 album Swim in the Silence. The Head on the Door-era Cure-style pop of Down Beneath is more swinging and carefree than the original, while Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me, a genuine classic the first time around, trades lush 80s ambience for a raw, wounded intensity.

The album also includes a couple of covers: Lost Highway owes more to the Psychedelic Furs than it does Hank Williams, Mitchell adding unexpected flair with her violin, while guest pianist Matt Dundas gives a honkytonk edge to the Social Distortion-style stomp of Johnny Cash’s Blue Train. The album ends on a high note – as high a note as a song this morbid can hit, anyway – with the chaotic, sprawling country ballad 100 Years from Now, Sinnis announcing that when his time is up, he wants to be buried with a bottle of whiskey. Ninth House play the cd release show for this one on Sept 24 at midnight at UC 87 Lounge, 87 Ludlow St. between Delancey and Broome with free admission before 11.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Mark Sinnis at Pete’s Candy Store, Brooklyn NY 5/31/09

Nashville gothic from one of its finest exponents. When Mark Sinnis isn’t playing bass and fronting dark, ferocious rockers Ninth House, he does this scaled-down acoustic project, sometimes backed by revolving cast of A-list characters from the New York underground scene. This time out it was just the powerful baritone singer on acoustic guitar, backed by Ninth House keyboardist Matt Dundas. Since the Social Distortion-inflected Aerosol and the intro to the Cure-influenced Quiet Change both start as blazing rockers when he plays them with Ninth House, Sinnis backed off the mic to maintain the intimate vibe rather than assaulting everyone with punk rock in a small space.

The rest of the show was a clinic in subtle inflection. Sinnis may be a big belter in his own band, but in a quiet setting he shows off the kind of phrasing that you usually only see in jazz singers. Or in Johnny Cash, an obvious influence. An audience member who’d been at Ninth House’s previous show a couple of weeks ago at Don Pedro’s remarked that hearing his vocals there, “to a woman, was like an hour of chocolate.” This was more like Grand Marnier. The new, minor-key Fifteen Miles to Hell’s Gate, a parable about the death of New York by gentrification, was all barely restrained wrath; the love song A Southern Tale (title track to his new album, recently reviewed here) was exactly the opposite. In between the two extremes the two players did a new Louvin Brothers style country gospel number possible titled Death’s Your Friend that met with considerable nervous laughter, an organ-fueled take of St. James Infirmary and closed with a stripped-down cover of Ghost Riders in the Sky, Sinnis’s voice sailing over funereal organ again. The crowd wouldn’t let them get away without an encore, so they played a terse version of the big Ninth House drunk-driving anthem Follow the Line. Ninth House play Hank’s on June 12 at 11; Sinnis’ next acoustic show is July 12 at Sidewalk at 9.

June 3, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment