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4.0 out of 5 stars UNEXPECTED DELIGHT, 16 May 2012
A. J. Gilpin (Cardiff, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Odessa (Audio CD)
In preparation for their forthcoming gig in Oxford (25/5/12), I thought I'd listen to The Handsome Family's back catalogue on Spotify. I wasn't going to listen to Odessa as the reviews I read told me that this is a far more rockier album than what followed and I thought they were unlikely to play any tracks from it. I also thought that if Brett Sparks had abandoned a rock direction after this, then maybe the album couldn't be much good. But I listened to it out of curiosity and I'm glad I did.

Apart from one or two tracks, Odessa doesn't sound like a Handsome Family record as Brett Sparks' vocals are higher and louder and backed up by (unfamiliar) noisy bursts of electric guitar. There is far more rock than their trademark country sound which only amount to a couple of songs and they sit uneasily along side the louder tracks. As such, it all seems rather unfocussed but that is a minor quibble as this, after all, is a debut album so can be forgiven.

Odessa could be described as a promising debut but, in light of their subsequent, and imminent, move towards their unique brand of Alt Country, it is a promise unfulfilled. This may seem a strange thing to say considering the critical success they have achieved in their chosen genre but I would have loved to have seen where Sparks would've taken his alt-rock sound. I hope he will produce such an album some day because the rock songs do impress here. They contain his trademark melodies and there are some excellent riffs. Some of the tracks remind me of early REM and there are a couple of tracks towards the end of the album that even Sonic Youth would've been proud of. I like it a lot.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Wonderful Skeleton in the Closet, 12 Jun 2013
retroandy (Banbury, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Odessa (Audio CD)
This album will be a surprise to latecomers to the Handsome Party, it's quite different to the sages we know today. In places its louder, angrier, blunter, more distorted, more scattergun in its approach. A mid 90s Chicago is nothing like a 2013 Albuquerque, and the handsomes were 20 years younger. Yet it's still a fantastic Handsome Family album. Where recent albums seem to run into one another, Odessa is left standing alone, like a flag on the moon, of what might have been.

Brett's Arlene and Moving Furniture Around, point to the direction that lies ahead. But the sheer joy of hearing Rennie belt out Babe's in Toyland style on "Big Bad Wolf" is not to be missed. Quickly becoming my favourite Family Album.
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Odessa by The Handsome Family
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