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City and Colour Little Hell Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Dallas Green’s third solo LP lacks bite enough to make it stand out.

Raziq Rauf 2011

In much the same way that Chris Carrabba’s Dashboard Confessional solo side-project soon overshadowed his day-job band Further Seems Forever a decade ago, Dallas Green’s City and Colour puts Alexisonfire into the shade with ease. It’s a curious phenomenon because Green represents the beautiful, honey-soaked vocal alternative to George Pettit – the gruff main vocalist of Alexisonfire. You’d be forgiven for thinking Green might be trying to look unreasonably sexy by standing next to the ugliest person in the room, but he really does have an outstanding and truly distinctive voice.

Moving on from 2008’s folky Bring Me Your Love, there’s a melancholic and bluesy vibe to be found on Little Hell, and this occasionally descends into southern, country-tinged gospel tones. Neil Young is a decent reference point in both style and substance, and while there are many moments where it appears that Green is simply moaning, his brave, bucolic voice shines through. We Found Each Other in the Dark opens the album with sad country guitars – it’s a love song, but the lyrics only barely give this away, such is the consistently lamenting nature of Green’s vocals.

Silver and Gold is a gentle acoustic journey through another poignant and painful experience. He’s a troubled gentleman and tells a story with a sincerity and fluency that is truly masterful. His lyrics may tackle situations that seem as personal and difficult as can be, but the sense that the listener will always be able to relate to them remains constant. Whether we want our stars to be so easily relatable is another question, though, and how true these stories are is never clear.

In Alexisonfire, Green acts as a comforting foil to the aggressive hardcore elements of the band; but there is nothing to counterbalance his syrupy goodness here. While the songwriting is as subtle as it is persuasively catchy and constantly morose, some added variety and bite in delivery would certainly help. The songs vary very little in length, while only the quaint Fragile Bird and curiously swaying Natural Disaster can be described as up-tempo. As it stands, Green has moved forward – or at least sideways – with each of his three City and Colour albums. But all in all, it’s difficult to call Little Hell anything much more than nice.

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