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XRoads

Dead-beat Dogs

To give you an idea of the uncomplicated high-jinx this group likes to wallow in it should be enough to point out that on their website they describe themselves as "Schopenhauer's favourite band". Hard to imagine more fun then, Bigard had better watch out! But, really, it has to be said that this fourth album from Songdog, a Welsh trio formed of musicians long-schooled in the ways of the folk-pop scene, doesn't exactly inhale deeply of joy and cheerfulness, I might even say that it's among the unhappiest of records that I've listened to in a very long time, but that in no way detracts from the sepulchral beauty that takes shape throughout the whole course of this long album, formed of two acts, "Love Lust" and "Love Lost" (I'm telling you, guys, it's no bundle of laughs!). Set in an acoustic soundscape of piano, guitars and strings, the songs really are sublime and recall those of a band shamefully unrecognised, the Apartments, architects of an 80s masterpiece forgotten today, "The Evening Visits and Stays For Years", where you find the same melancholia, the same disenchanted, perhaps drink-sodden, voice. Elsewhere, there's a comparison to be made too with one of the most beautiful records of the late 90s, "Deserter's Song" by Mercury Rev. You get the impression these musicians have seen it all, their music evokes nights spent in watering-holes bellowing along to the sound of the accordion --- check out the sublime sea-shanty "The Devil Needs You For His Squeeze" --- it really is magnificently evocative, and at the same time slightly quaint and old-fashioned. The vocal is sublime, bristling with a vibrato to send shivers down your spine, and the frequent splashes of mandolin render the whole thing very moving. Despite its length --- there are 18 songs in all! --- the record pulls off the remarkable feat of never losing momentum, a real achievement in itself. If you liked some of the British folk bands of the 80s such as House of Love or the Pale Fountains then you'll go wild over this lot and you'll be right to, this music stinks magnicently of celestial hobos and their dead-beat dogs.