Drinks for the Apocalypse
The world gets heavy sometimes. It’s when bands like Murder by Death come along when that weight suddenly doesn’t feel so bad. Singing from an older perspective on life, it becomes clear how underrepresented this point of view actually is in popular music. In the band’s newest album The Other Shore, the opener “Alas” plays like the listener is walking in at the end of a big journey, just to catch a glimpse of some past era before the sun sets. Reflective but still inviting, lead singer Adam Turla is the centerpiece of the wonderful dim halogen bulb glow of Murder by Death’s instrumental backing. The celebratory Irish jig feel combines with the band’s Indiana folksy sensibilities to create a mammoth of an introduction. It’s the sound of a big life having been lived and really draws one into tune in for what’s to come.
The following few songs don’t have quite the enormity that “Alas” projects, with “Chasing Ghosts” and “True Dark” feeling more like passing thoughts on where to go next. Not saying that they aren’t perfectly fine pieces of folksy rock, but that perspective on life that we were brought in with is still on the mind. “Stone” adds in more finesse, though, with its lyricism comparing trying to rouse Turla’s heart to trying to squeeze water from a stone. It feels like a piece of sage wisdom that gives Murder by Death that certain mystique. Beyond having that quality, though, it’s all clearly pleasant to listen to as well. “Travelin’ Far” could score any misty-eyed first bride/groom dance at any barn wedding in America, and that’s a fact.
The album being named The Other Side is at first thought of, obviously, as life after death. However, with “Space,” the album looks skyward instead of inward. The focus of the album shifts with it to transition away from the issues of any one person’s specific issues, and begins to ponder the great beyond. Murder by Death does so with the deftest of hands, too, with the walking cello melodies that make up the song being a great summing up point for of curiosity for the unknown—but never fear—that permeates The Other Side. The feel of the album is one of drinking a beer at the end of the world. But, all parties have to end, and “Last Night On Earth” (fittingly, the last song on the album), is where the energy finally gives way to a certain decay. It’s the only song on the album with any kind of resentment or pain in it. Turla sings of the troubling things he’s seen in his time, but that gives way to another reflective cello section to close out The Other Shore. Good things may come to an end, but the experience is clearly worth everything, both good and bad.