Day 140 – #102. The Dark Romantics – Heartbreaker

The Dark Romantics - Heartbreaker Album Review

As with my post earlier this month on The Middle East, it pains me to say that I’ll only be able to discuss “Orlampa, Florida’s own” The Dark Romantics once this year (though technically speaking, their home base is in Lakeland, the current city of residence for the voice of the modern Space Ghost, George Lowe, as well as the popular guy from Copeland).

As such, I’ll implore you to check out all of their old stuff, like: their first album Some Midnight Kissin’The Artificial EP; and the Another Song EP.

There is one single in particular you should pay attention to, though: Lonely/Roads, because, hot damn if I’ve ever heard as good of a Portishead cover as this one.

The Dark Romantics - Lonely... Alone/Roads Review

The musical marriage of The Dark Romantics, who play a brand of sorta-brooding, synth and electronic drum-backed slow-burning electronic-indie rock, and a Portishead song known for Beth Gibbons’ whispery-thin vocals, is one made in music heaven. And it’s only made possible because of the Internet.

As a semi-important aside: I’m writing this from Savannah, Georgia at The Coffee Fox, and no, not just because of the name, you turkey. I’m here to repair my tarnished image of Savannah as a glistening southern gem of beauty and “aw, shucks” revery, because I drove in through the worst section of town, or so I’m told.

On Saturday, before my cousin’s wedding rehearsal dinner in Charleston, I was chauffeuring two of my aunts out to the house. They were interested in this very project (I guess word gets around quickly in our family what the offspring are doing?), and then asked me to describe the type of music I listen to and write about.

And, in total and complete honesty, I didn’t know how to answer them. The types of references I was making were inherently circular. “Well, if you like (blank), you’ll also like (blank).”

But what if you don’t know either of the two blanks? For one, you leave your listener or reader out in the cold. What if, for example, I was trying to say “Well, you’ll like the Dark Romantics, if you like Portishead or Interpol.” Those are two fairly big bands… to me. They’re still steeped in the music “underground” despite their status as stalwarts of the ‘indie scene.’

It was my first attempt at describing what I am doing and have been doing on a daily basis to two people who were 100% ignorant of the type of music available out there today. And that’s not a knock on them. They’re a different generation and have their own tastes and appreciations. I respect that.

I had a very similar experience yesterday, when transporting the videographer of my cousin’s wedding. She is marrying into a Dominican family, and the guys documenting the wedding via picture and video were both Dominican. I was contracted to help them out, and as we were driving to our destination (a plantation in Charleston), one of them asked me a simple question: “Why are there so many churches out here?”

Somehow my answer of “Well, just like some countries are Catholic, the south is predominantly protestant, with the largest denomination of Baptists…” blah blah blah, and we ended up on slavery because I was recounting several hundred years of American history to a guy from the DR who had no knowledge of the American Civil War, because why would he?

I say all that to say this: I appreciate the fact that music from bands like The Dark Romantics even exists for me to be able to talk about in a vehicle that has become half-life blog, half-music thoughts and sorta review – but all sexy, all the time.

So in trying to explain to my twin aunts (which was the topic of much discussion all weekend) how I find the music that I listen to, or how to describe it, or how much the music landscape has shifted just since I graduated high school, I was completely overwhelmed. It all just started pouring out to the point of me not being able to stop a short oral history of my experiences with music, circa 2004-2013.

My saving grace in shutting up was that we found a restaurant that still has a smoking section. What kind of free spirited, open-minded bastion of refuge was this? Right. South Carolina.

I guess the point of all this is to say that, even if you aren’t aware of a musical trend or artist, to make up your own mind even in spite of whatever recommendations someone like me makes.

All that said, to get to it (finally): that Lonely/Roads single should be something you put in your ear holes, stat.

Here’s that “Roads” cover I’m crazy about –

Today’s album, Heartbreaker (2008), serves as the band’s final full-length release, following Some Midnight Kissin’ from 2007. Just like with The Middle East, this iteration of music goodness from Mr. ENC (aka Eric Collins, the brainchild behind Denison Marrs, TDR, and now solo) was here and then gone. In music years, three years of activity is but a mere suggestion of time. But in the band’s defense, when a project is over, it’s best to let it go about its way.

I’m just glad that Heartbreaker, and the slew of other songs the band released, are enough to tide fans over until Collins’ next venture. As the name implies, the record is thematically about love, loss and heartbreak.

But even if you take away its lyrical themes and replace all of Collins’ words with lorem ipsum, I’d still listen to it. I’m a sucker for steel and slide guitar, and both Heartbreaker and other releases in the band’s discography are littered with the sound. It gives the band a sweet southern twang at times, which, when juxtaposed with its primarily electric sound, makes for a pleasing, familiar feel.

The album’s best song – and, in my opinion, their overall best – is the single: “Let’s Ride.” Words alone don’t do it justice, so have a listen, and look out later this year for Mr. ENC’s new solo venture.

For a high-quality, free (!) MP3 of the song, click here.

From Heartbreaker, this is The Dark Romantics’ “Let’s Ride” –

Standout tracks: “Hush Your Mouth” and “Let’s Ride” (their best song, next to their cover of Portishead’s “Roads”
Weakest track: “This is Young Love” (because I’m a bitter old man, I guess).

RIYL: Slide guitar! To an extent, Interpol-ish bands, but TDR’s vocals are befitting of Paul Banks. Denison Marrs (or really, anything that Mr. ENC does), Starflyer 59, The Brothers Martin, recent versions of the Kevin Devine live band.



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