Album Review – The Horrible Crowes – Elsie 10 Year Anniversary

There’s a long, probably very contentious, book waiting to be written about what progressive rock actually is definitively. It’s unlikely there will be a universally agreed outcome in any case. Most listeners can recognise progressive rock when they hear it, but why certain artists are considered prog and others not is quite often a mystery. If your definition of progressive rock limits itself to a musical proximity to one of the styles classic bands – Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson et al – then you’re limiting yourself to a great extent. After all, one of the key ingredients of progressive rock is eclecticism. So, what of progressive musicians who portray this? Are they not progressive rock? The answer for many will probably be that they are not. But the reason for why they are not will always be elusive.

Elsie is a re-released album from The Horrible Crowes, a duo of Ian Perkins and guitarist/vocalist Brian Fallon, the latter being noted as the frontman of the American rock band The Gaslight Anthem. It was originally released in 2011, and had some considerable success in the American charts, but now has been released as a double disc with a number of bonus tracks. These are mostly demo tracks of the original album, along with a live track and a cover version of INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart which has a compulsive sound of The Doors about it. The music throughout is very eclectic, drawing inspiration from rock, soul and the blues. The resulting mood is very late night smokey room observations of life. Fallon’s voice is quite low pitched here, not quite gravelly but moving that way. The songs end up with a kind of Tom Waites vibe, though less eccentric, taking in The Afghan Whigs along the way. There are no great tempo shifts or soloing, but the diversity of influences gives each song its atmosphere. The blues is never far away from the core of the music, the seasoning comes from the astute use of soul and rock influences, the first for its feel and vibe, the second for its movement and energy. It is quite dark material though, heartfelt with after-hours philosophising. There’s also influences from other music on display too, such as a little reggae flavour on I Witnessed A Crime. The core band duo is fleshed out by a number of contributions from invited musicians whose styles meld exceptionally well with the songs and the other contributors.

This Anniversary Edition comes in a double gatefold LP on gold or silver variant vinyl, and the inner gatefold and cover contains all new artwork and photographs by Danny Clinch. The album is packaged inside a slipcase containing the original cover art, so you won’t see the new art until you open it up! The first disc contains the original record in its entirety (Elsie has been out of print for a few years now), and the second disc is full of the demos and rarities that have never been heard before now. 

This release appeals to progressive rock lovers who take the term at its broadest. It is classy, tasteful and rich with image forming emotional atmosphere.

Disc 1:

1. Last Rites

2. Sugar

3. Behold the Hurricane

4. I Witnessed a Crime

5. Go Tell Everybody

6. Cherry Blossoms

7. Ladykiller

8. Crush

9. Mary Ann

10. Black Betty & The Moon

11. Blood Loss

12. I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together

Disc 2:

1. Last Rites (Demo)

2. Behold the Hurricane (Demo)

3. I Witnessed a Crime (Demo)

4. Go Tell Everybody (Demo)

5. Cherry Blossoms (Demo)

6. Crush (Demo)

7. Mary Ann (Demo)

8. I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together (Demo)

9. Teenage Dream (Live @ WFUV)

10. Never Tear Us Apart (INXS Cover)

Brian Fallon – guitar, Hammond B3, percussion, piano, vocals

Ian Perkins – bass, guitar, slide guitar

Hollie Fallon – Hammond B3

Ben Horowitz – timpani

Ted Hutt – guitar

Adele Jensen – trumpet

The Parkington Sisters – accordion, strings, vocals

Alex Rosamilia – guitar

Steve Sidelnyk – drums, percussion

Release date: 2021

Label: Sideonedummy Records

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