...this is a world of night thoughts and bitter recriminations. But don't fool...
Chris Jones 2002-11-20
How we love ironically named bands here at BBC towers, and there's none more ironic than The Beauty Shop. From the bleak environs of Urbana-Champaign, Illinois comes this little nugget of despairing Americana; full of doomed relationships, fatally flawed men, dysfunctional women and tales of terminal ennui. It's disarmingly simple but ultimately affecting.
Singer John Hoeffleur declaims these reality bytes in a suitably drawling baritone which, (once you get past comparisons with the awful Crash Test Dummies) never seeks to preach or indulge in vocal gymnastics. He just wearily spins its stories of a real world where nothing quite works properly. Songs like the self-explanatory "I Got Issues" and "Dutch Courage" (opening line: "She's a tricky, tricky one, yeah she's got problems, I wish that something could be done. Wish I could solve them. But I got problems of my own. Yeah I've been drinking...") deal in the currency of distrust and disappointment.
This isn't to say that it's all doom and gloom. It's not just the name of the band that's ironic. These mid-westerners are undoubtedly genuine but not without humour. Ariane Peralta's Kenny Rogers/honky tonk basslines and Casey Smith's economical percussion underpin this album like sunshine on a cloudy day, always threatening to break out and pierce the mordant mood. "803 W Nevada" is a haunted house dirge that's more trick or treat than true southern gothic, while the title track is pretty much a lively recreation of that long-forgotten genre: Cowpunk!
Final track "Science Lights" comes across as just plain surreal with lines that declare how "trees will grow to record heights underneath my science lights". It's probably the fullest representation of the album as a whole. Repetitive and always threatening to disintegrate beneath the weight of its own malaise, this is a world of night thoughts and bitter recriminations. But don't fool yourself; within each of these tracks The Beauty Shop have hidden a piece of all of us.