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  …And the Horse Your Rode In On  
  The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir  
  Bloodshot Records  
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The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir is not, ironically, a band from the U.K.; rather they hail from Chicago. Focusing around the writing and vocals of frontman Elia Einhorn, their self-titled second album (released in 2007) was a low-key, somewhat twangy affair that led to the group being described as "chamber pop", mainly I suspect due to presence of cello and violin in the mix. Now, after two years, the band has returned with …And the Horse You Rode In On, a record which lays fair claim to being the best break-up record of 2009.

Historically, in the Indie world at least, whenever a musician has gone through a painful personal break up, the following album has been a musical visitation of the issues and feelings surrounding the relationship's demise. A classic case in point is Superchunk's Foolish, which is for me at least the definitive statement. In the case of The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, the new record seems to reflect the thoughts of an individual going through and then recovering from a similar experience. In general, this focus has given the band an edge, which, combined with a healthy dose of musical catchiness, makes …And the Horse You Rode In On accessible, despite some uncomfortable posturing.

The worst manifestation of this affectation is found on the first track on the record, Stop!. This tune begins with the melodramatic call of "I hope you catch syphilis and die alone" delivered in a manner best described as a parody of Morrissey at his mopiest. Even though the music underneath is fairly lovely, especially with the violin line and 6/8 beat, it's hard to listen to bombastic bitterness. I suspect that many listeners, upon hearing this opening, will turn off the record and dismiss it as full of unlikeable bile.

However, the other tunes on the album are more benign and better structured. As an example, the song which follows Stop!, One Night Stand has a nice jangly bounce which shows off the 80s-esque delivery of frontman Einhorn. Likewise, Something's Happening comes across as slightly twangy as it bounds through its tale of an individual trying to get through a breakup by meeting new girls. More than any other song on the album, Something's Happening feels the most like a track on the band's previous records, with its dominating violin and keyboard work.

Still, the best tracks on the record are the ones that manage to combine the recriminations with a happy, catchy melody. For instance, I Pretend She's You blends together a quickly paced jangle-pop guitar riff, a subdued vocal line, and an expansive horn bridge to create a song that 's reminiscent of the late 80s work of The Waterboys. Likewise, Libertyville or Somewhere begins with a Wedding Present-esque guitar riff but then goes through several key changes as it progresses, all of which manages to take the edge off the lyrics (which involves references cheating as well as STDs, although in the same bombastic manner as some of the earlier tunes). Finally, the eponymous …And the Horse You Rode In On has a melody and a pacing that recalls the work of The Housemartins (circa The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death) which culminates in the emphatic chorus consisting of two horn blows with the band adding in a shout of "And the horse you rode in on!"

Beyond those songs, The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir also offers up some different sounding tracks. As an example, Sixteen is Too Young is a slow tune which has lots of open space between the various melodies. Additionally, the song is sung by bassist Ellen O'Hayer, whose vocals have a delicacy not normally affiliated with the band's music. Similarly, Castles of Wales has a nostalgic lyric that when taken in combination with the gentle melody and repetitive chorus reminds me a bit of Broad Majestic Shannon by The Pogues or something by The Church. Finally, the rambunctious, almost rockabilly Tear Down the Opera House features a guitar solo that is almost blistering by this band's standards.

All in all, …And the Horse You Rode In On is a great little album that uses its theme to deliver up music that ranges from the twangy to the gentle to the positively blistering. But the greatest unifying traits of the record are the constantly interesting melodies which are guitar-driven but accented by The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir's extended instrumentation. In fact, the only thing I really don't like about the record is that opening track, which casts an ugliness over the proceedings. But as long as you skip that song, you'll find that this record is one of the most enjoyable releases of 2009.

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