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The Beauty Shop | Your Money Or Your Life (Parasol)
With a back cover that recalls the cheap vulgarity of Alien Sex Fiend, some truly hideous typefaces and song titles that revel in gloom, you're prepared for the worst. What you're not perhaps ready for is a slyly captivating acoustic album of superior laid-back alt.country gothic. Singer John Hoeffleur has the kind of resonant, narcotic drawl that sounds like it's chewing through your speakers, vaguely threatening and consoling at the same time. The first song, Death March, is told from the perspective of a man buried alive, now a ghost roaming the world for his lost love. The other songs riff on similar themes. It could all collapse into parody but, apart from a couple of misfires (Lies, Art Project) the album delivers. Songs of obsessive love saturate this collection, balanced on a bed of banjos, acoustic guitars and brushed drums. Hoeffleur at times sounds like Redstar Belgrade's Bill Curry, his ravaged voice just brimming with subsumed anger and pain, driving the love-lorn and desolate Denver or the epic stalker ballad, To Keep You, with its admission of "I drive by your house three times each day / In the desperate hope your car's in the driveway" and the slowly building, sinister refrain of "There's nothing I wouldn't do to keep you." A couple of songs venture into more up-tempo territory, I Got Issues most notably, sounding like Iggy Pop gone bucolic and the hard driving Dutch Courage, but mostly it's slow and broody all the way. The last third of the album begins to drag but songs such as the moving Shell Game and the creepy, menacing Science Lights make sure that you're there until the end of the ride.

Stav Sherez
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001

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