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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
In Dearland
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 18 April 2009
There is not too much point in going into the well rehearsed family tragedy that Elvis Perkins faced when he recorded Ash Wednesday. Suffice it to say that the death of his mother in the 9/11 tragedy and his actor father from AIDS cast a long shadow. It resulted in one of the greatest songs of recent years "While you were sleeping" (check out his 2007 Lollapalooza performance on You Tube) but also an album which sometimes (and understandably) only just succeeded on staying on the right side of being morose or more kindly was "gorgeously depressing" as one reviewer described it.

For this second album Elvis and his cohorts in Dearland have recorded an album which is clearly more upbeat and fun. It is more of a band album and collective effort and all the better for it. Most importantly it shows that his fine songwriting is deepening and maturing. "Shampoo" is one of the best songs I have heard in years and is a brilliant start. It will not doubt be snapped up by some aspiring film producer to grace a movie soundtrack (despite the fact that intro makes you think your car alarm is going off - just listen to it and see what I mean!). Only a few artists really have the ability to weave gorgeous lyrics and melodies the way Elvis Perkins can. Love the cover in addition "very Rothko".

In terms of the feel of the album I think one real inspiration for it comes from the late great Dr. Winston O'Boogie - John Lennon and that atmosphere he captured on Stand by Me on the "Rock n Roll" album. In one setting it is sort of shambolic but in the other it makes eminent good sense. Other standout songs out of many include "Chains, Chains, Chains" the brass driven "Doomsday" and "Hours last stand". Difficult to pin this album down and put it into the usual boxes. It's an eclectic mix of alt country, balladry, old time jazz and rock. Let us also put aside claims for a "new Dylan". I detect many influences ranging from Leonard Cohen to snatches the Balfa Brothers joyous cajun music. The best way to listen to this is nevertheless not to pin it down at all. The point being that Elvis Perkins in Dearland needs to be checked out as a matter of urgency since this is going to be one of the greatest albums of 2009.
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VINE VOICEon 28 April 2009
On September 11, 2001, the life of Elvis Perkins changed forever. A day short of the ninth anniversary of his father's passing, Perkins' mother, Berinthia Berenson, was on board one of the ill-fated flights that hit the World Trade Center. Blessed with what would appear to be an idyllic childhood, Perkins was the son of two talented creatives; his father was actor Anthony Perkins (famously cast as Norman Bates in Hitchcock's Psycho) and his mother was a well-respected photographer. In the space of nine years, Perkins' charmed life would become beset with tragedy. In what is the second, and possibly conclusive, part of his often quite perturbing public catharsis, Elvis Perkins In Dearland sees Perkins countenance his loss with both great honesty and dignity.

Listening to Perkins' debut album is an excruciating experience. Ash Wednesday is a truly beguiling piece of music and funereal to the extent that you feel like you're placing flowers beside him. Although half the album was written and recorded before Berry Berenson's untimely death, the whole album seems flooded with melancholy. In the way we apply meaning to the most abstract confessions and declarations of the singer-songwriter, so we can't help associate each word and each major and minor chord with the turmoil of a grieving man. Clearly under the influence of Dylan, Perkins, well before time, delivered his own Blood On The Tracks.

Yet, for all its melancholy and for all its bereavement, Perkins' music possesses the delicate charm and eccentricity of an old, wiry vagabond that has spent too much time on his own, proselytising in pubs and bars to people who are simply fed up of listening. Like all the best singer-songwriters, loneliness and a wandering mind are merely tools of inspiration for Perkins. Intricate weaves of poetry touch on themes mythical and historical; walking with Perkins can feel a bit like holding Alice's hand through Wonderland. Comfort comes in the form of pleasant and uncomplicated melodies which, in a fashion not dissimilar to Dylan, help soften Perkins' marching rhythms and occasionally austere, drawling vocals.

Throughout the Ash Wednesday tour, Perkins was joined by a number of talented multi-instrumentalists and collectively they went by the name of ...In Dearland. Using the momentum of the tour, famed for its rambunctious performances, Perkins kept the set up united and worked on new material in the studio. The results are superb. For all the ways in which the first album mirrors the mood of one of Dylan's masterpieces, so ...In Dearland mirrors another, Blonde On Blonde.

Lyrically, ...In Dearland is obscure, though it is marbled with the reflection that so characterised Ash Wednesday. However, the mood is now one of celebration rather than contemplation. Having had time for the sense of pain to subside, Perkins now recalls happier times and glorifies his mother's memory with an easier poignancy.

Opener Shampoo sets the tone with its bluesy-folk adorned with Hammond organs and harmonicas. Perkins, reaching the extent of his range, proclaims: "you are worth your weight in gold / you're worth your weight in sorrow, baby / though you'll never know why." Whether Perkins has a new love or is merely remembering past loves, he is making sure he is heard. Hey betrays Perkins' roots with its Roy Orbison bluesy rock n roll. Like Richard Hawley, Elvis Perkins is wilfully trapped in a bygone age. Hours Last Stand's military snare and spiritual undertones accompany Perkins eulogy to "a lonely love". As before, there are some moments not for the faint of heart.

The Buddy Holly hop-groove of I Heard Your Voice In Dresden lifts the mood and so does the classic Dylan-esque verse follows verse follows verse busker's anthem, Send My Fond Regards To Lonelyville. The album's last four tracks are simply beautiful pieces of folk-rock. Sounding more like Cat Stevens and Donovan than Dylan, Perkins uses both strings and brass to great effect. Beautifully produced, there is no excess and little in the way of indulgence. Doomsday sees Perkins revisit the events of 9/11 but in the most unlikely way. It's big band carnival parade acts to banish negative memories of that grim day as Perkins sarcastically quips: "I don't let doomsday bother me / does it bother you?" It is clear Perkins intends to enjoy his life as his parents would have wanted: "I don't plan to die! / nor should you plan to die!"

123 Goodbye sees Perkins looking for closure - "1,2,3 goodbye / I love you more in death / than I ever could in life" - while at the same time attempting to understand the abruptness of the circumstances - "once in a lifetime / will the undoing of two souls / be so easy to do". Although painfully raw for Perkins, he never allows himself to wallow. He merely uses his music to help search his mind for answers and conclusions. The final reflection of How's Forever Been Baby, flush with piano and harmonica, leaves the album tangled up in blue.

As a happier denouement to Ash Wednesday, Elvis Perkins In Dearland is a sign that Perkins is slowly freeing himself of the torment of his loss. Let's hope he has found the answers he has been looking for.
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on 2 December 2009
I saw Elvis Perkins in Dearland play at the Birmingham Bar Academy when Perkins was still promoting his majestic Ash Wednesday album. Perkins arrived at the venue midway through one of the support acts, wrapped heavily in a scarf and long coat, and walked unassumingly to the bar.

In a rare glimpse behind the lustrous veil of celebrity, me and my girlfriend saw Perkins asking the surly barmaid who had served us earlier for permission to use the venue's kettle for a hot drink. Having granted her assent, Perkins struggled for a couple of minutes to get the obviously broken kettle to work, as the barmaid looked amusedly on. Eventually Perkins gave up, and rather than stamping his feet with petulant assertions of 'who he was', merely walked away.

Hopefully you'll forgive me the slightly indulgent anecdote, but I think it well illustrates one of the most appealing qualities of Perkins and his music. A quick glance at the man's biography will show that a broken kettle would rank pretty low on a list of his personal tragedies. But the manner of his response, to bear it not with self-pity or prima-donna fits of temper, but rather with quiet resignation, and above all dignified composure, is emblematic of the way he has attempted to deal with deeply tragic personal circumstances through his life affirming music. Like Eels' Mark Everett, Perkins has an extraordinary, and extraordinarily tragic, life story. But the modesty and humanism through which he filters his lyricism, alongside a genuine everyman quality, give his music a transcendant resonance. They give what could, in lesser hands, only make sense to handful of unlucky individuals, universality. And they offer a beacon of hope that persists in even the darkest circumstances.

Fleshed out by a full band, Perkins sounds magnificent here. Unlike Ash Wednesday, where the bleakness of the lyrical sentiment was matched by austere music, Perkins whips up a vibrant, joyful cacaphony on this album. Dearland the night we saw them played joyously to Perkins stark truths, and that sense of existential knees up is present here on tracks like Hey, I Heard your Voice in Dresden and Doomsday. Dearland sound the house band on the Titanic, and when Perkins faces down Doomsday with the assertion that it 'won't bother me' his resiliance is contagious.

Elsewhere, the music is simply beautiful. Dearland are obviously fine musicians but the sparingness with which they use instrumentation gives it a real punch. When the wind instument interlude kicks in on Send My Fond Regards to Lonelyville you mood is utterly changed. When the strings enter during the final verse of Chains Chains Chains a glimmer of hope seems possible despite Perkins fatalistic assertion that 'I see them now wherever I go set to the solemn refrain.' Instruments flicker in and out of 123 Goodbye like half remembered moments with a loved one. While Elvis Perkins in Dearland can't quite match the visceral impact of it's predecessor, this is music that takes you on a journey. And you feel more alive by it's conclusion.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 November 2012
This 2009 release is the second album from indie folk rock singer songwriter Elvis Perkins. Following form the superb Ash Wednesday, he has enriched his sound a little, and the feel of this record is quite rocky from the outset, though there are a couple of slower numbers that break up the mood a little. In this album he continues to explore his vision of the world - it's a bit dark - through the medium of gentle folk/rock. He sings songs of love and life gone wrong with a pleasantly slightly off key voice that is full of expression and has an overtone of world weariness. The production, whilst rocky, is understated, supporting and underscoring the lyrics rather than overpowering them. His lyrics tend to the darker side of life, and make for some great songs. I loved it, even more than his debut. 5 stars and here's hoping for more from him soon.
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on 23 July 2011
I bought this album based on a reference by Low Anthem's Ben Miller, he referred to Elvis as a peer, my interest piqued and so Amazon used its power to delivery this CD to me. And two months later its always getting a revisit to my CD player. Stunning music, lyrics and harmonies. This music and its predecessor knocks me off my chair Cannot recommend highly enough to purchase.
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on 14 December 2010
This album is an advance on the excellent Ash Wednesday. The melodies are infectious as is Perkins vocal style.

Anyone who likes to seek out "non mainstream" music would well to buy this album.

There is humour,sadness and bitter sweet lyrics in spadefulls.

Excellent body of work.
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