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  The Murder of Love  
  Dodd Ferrelle and the Tinfoil Stars  
  2 Sheds  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:

Dodd Ferrelle and I have an interesting relationship. I've seen him and his band in concert multiple times, and I've always they're an interesting bar band - a little Americana, but more or less straight up rock. In fact, if you've ever seen John Doe play a solo set, you will indeed have the right idea of the sound.

Ferrelle's recorded output, however, is another animal altogether. That's not to say that the albums have been bad or anything, but rather that Ferrelle & The Tinfoil Stars need that smokey, divey ambience to propel them forward. And, for what it is worth, Ferrelle's most recent release on Two Sheds Records, The Murder of Love, does little to contradict this notion.

The album begins strongly with Hiding Out, which demonstrates the crunchy, twangy musical style which characterizes Ferrelle's music. In particular, this song also shows the strength of Ferrell's voice. Unlike most musicians I encounter these days, Ferrelle has an amazingly strong and resonant upper range. This quality, along with a simple and catchy chord structure, makes Hiding Out one of the better songs on the album.

From there, the songs become a bit more twangy and country-fied. Run feels like a cleaner version of something by Two Cow Garage. It's the type of music that almost crosses into pure country, and, without guitar distortion to counteract Ferrelle's voice, the song seems somehow lacking. In contrast, If You Could Be begins with a slow verse before becoming more jangly and upbeat during the choruses. Although the chorus sounds vocally similar to the previous songs, the slower verses allow Ferrelle to sing lower, showing again that his voice is the great strength of his recordings. However, If You Could Be also features a nicely distorted and overlaid musical bridge, which allows The Tinfoil Stars themselves to show that they are a solidly talented band, albeit in that bar band vein I mentioned earlier.

Afterwards, we move back to a more country meets The Waterboys feel with Lightning Strikes. It's a nice enough tune, but it is a song which could do with fewer vocals and more band noise. Instead, the primary instrument here appears to be vaguely martial drumming, courtesy of Dan Orchik. Likewise, although it has louder guitars and a more rock beat, This Town focuses again on the vocals, which includes a female vocal bit courtesy of Betsy Inglesby. Her voice in particular seems very loud in the mix and somehow manages to overwhelm the backing instruments. But the song itself is rather good, and would come across better with a different mix, I suspect. The next song, You're Gone unfortunately has a similar sound and feel to the previous two. And like them, it's good enough, but has a certain sameness, which ensures that it did not stick in my head, either for good or ill.

However, the accusation of sameness cannot be leveled at the next tune, a cover of S.O.S., by ABBA. It's definitely unexpected, and oddly enough, it works. Ferrelle and his band filter this disco tune through their own sound. For example, the intricate guitarwork at the beginning sounds enough like ABBA to make sense, but then Ferrelle's voice comes in and, not surprisingly, his range comes in handy as he works his way through the cover. It's fun and different, but not the best thing on the album.

However, S.O.S shines even more strongly in comparison with the next song, Homemaker. This slow, dirgey tune goes on for a interminable 5 minutes, and with meaningful guitar solos and ponderous beats, it is the low point of the album for me. The band recovers though with One Shot Left, another of the really strong songs here. Underneath the guitars and drums, this one has a slightly honky-tonk sound, which could be because of the energy and speed (and the vaguely Eddie Cochran guitar sound that pervades the music). After the wretched Homemaker, One Shot Left is a welcome change that plays to Ferrelle's strengths.

The next to last song, Come Again, is a bit of a departure for Ferrelle. Like the earliest tracks on the album, it rocks hard and seems driven by the cymbal heavy drumming. However, unlike the earlier songs, this song harkens back to the early 90s to the almost jangly rock of bands like the Gin Blossoms. (To some of you that may be an insult, but I'll confess that when New Miserable Experience came out in 1992, I found much to enjoy.) The Murder of Love ends with Turn It Around, another slower song with crystal clear acoustic guitars and Ferrelle's always interesting voice. Yet, this song lacks a focal point, which should have been the basswork of Michelle McClure. Having seen this band live before, I know McClure is a good bassist, but her contributions aren't much in evidence on this recording. Still, of the slower songs, Turn It Around is the best.

The Murder of Love is actually a really decent album, provided you buy into the roots rock sound of Dodd Ferrelle & The Tinfoil Stars. It's a sound that's neither pure nor pure rock, but rather an amalgamation of the two. When the band plays quick and hard, their music gels and goes by fast enough that any sameness is easy to overlook. However, while Ferrelle's voice still shines during the slower material, the musical construction and sound aren't enough to keep me interested. Nevertheless, the 4 or so really good songs on here are worth hearing, especially in a live setting.

Related Links:

Concert: Fri.9.Nov.01
Concert: Fri.28.Dec.02


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