When I first heard of this band I was intrigued by the way that they were described to me. 1940’s cabaret sounds you say? Influenced by Faith No More, Danzig and Danny Elfman? Count me in I thought. If this band adds up to the sum of its influences it’ll be the most exciting thing I’ve heard since I got thoroughly confused, and then enthused, by the first Mr Bungle album.
When I first heard the band, thanks to their first single Metro, I was totally disappointed. Where on earth were all these influences? Why weren’t these influences all mixed up in a massive melting pot and poured out in frantic jumbled mess that shot off in a thousand different directions all at once?
It turns out that Metro was actually a catchy little number that didn’t have to wear its influences on its sleeve. It kicks off proceedings on Fears in the Water, and Cassandra Ford’s vocals immediately grab the attention as they bear more than a close resemblance to Gwen Stefani‘s.
That aside, Metro’s chorus is pure pop gold and as an opener to the album you have to ask whether or not The Vincent Black Shadow have blown their load a little early. After all they can’t have a whole album’s worth of songs this good can they? Actually, they can.
Following on from Metro is Control, a song that leads you to believe that The Vincent Black Shadow might actually have hit on something quite special. The something quite special in this case is Cassandra Ford’s voice. There’s nothing wrong with what’s going on musically here, there are some keyboards that wouldn’t be out of place at a Halloween party, and some nice rolling piano lines for the guitar riffs to bounce off of. Yet it is Ford’s performance that really pulls you in. The chorus is once again a perfectly written pop gem made all the more stunning by Ford’s impassioned lung bursting vocals. If you’re driving when you hear this, don’t try and keep up yourself, you are liable to pass out.
Don’t Go Soft shows the band’s more delicate side which is, to be fair, little more than an excuse for Ford to show off her range. It’s the only time the album sags. Far better is the jazzy swing of This Road is Going Nowhere, or Surgery (a song that somehow bridges the gap between Kate Bush, Misfits and David Cronenberg).
Happily at the midway point we find out exactly why The Vincent Black Shadow list Danny Elfman and 1940s cabaret as their influences. In fact it’s the only time on the album where they really mix things up perfectly. Most of the other tracks content themselves with assimilating a genre for their entirely, The House of Tasteful Men on the other hand actually shows that the band have quite a few tricks up their sleeves. It starts off in a laid back swing style, before zipping through a little ska and punk and winding things up with a blistering rock chorus. For once Ford doesn’t steal the show, instead, the incredible versatility of the band is to the fore.
The whole album is packed with great punky pop tunes, but in particular it is The House of Tasteful Men that proves that The Vincent Black Shadow is a band full of resourcefulness and ideas. This is an album worth a look, and a band worth keeping an eye on.