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Rasp Thorne and the Briars – The Lecher’s Waltz

Chagrin

Rasp Thorne and the Briars The Lecher’s WaltzI’ve been trying to find a way to review this record without simply comparing Rasp Thorne and The Briars to other bands I enjoy. I could, of course, write a comprehensive list of other acts that make this kind of gothic punk gypsy burlesque, but the first thought that struck me was that what it reminded me of most was the Australian dark cabaret of Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen – although there is perhaps even a touch more of the rogue about these rapscallions. The Lecher’s Waltz is their first full-length album as a band, having had some small success with their EP Debutante Warnings, and here we are treated to a fuller exposition of their sound.

The first track and single from the album – “Operator Taunt No. 3” – is a big, bold opening from a band that seem as big and bold as their front man. Rasp Thorne sings like someone who knows things about the world you possibly don’t want him to tell you. His vocal is confident, bordering on cocksure. This is all backed up by an equally confident organ, piano and bass-heavy joyous cacophony, hung together with languid guitar and punctuated with a range of quirky percussion and searing strings. Rasp Thorne and the Briars make a sound which is instantly engaging and makes you want to know what they are on about.

The influences are evident from the outset, the Tom Waits-heavy deep blues of “Pornstar Shotgun” being the first and not the last. Unlike, perhaps, other acts of this type, the authenticity of the theatrical feel is very pleasing and resonates through the production on this record – I get the feeling this band are at their happiest playing in a basement dive somewhere, loudly and throatily proclaiming their birthright. Which to my mind is to make the kind of music to have loud arguments to, the kind of songs that, swaggering and self-assured, make you want to give them a wide berth, whilst simultaneously making eyes at them from the audience.

The title track bounds along, dragging the audience into a murky, richly gothic world, evocative of the old Hammer Horror films. If there is one chink in the wall of swagger, it is the perhaps slight tendency to delve too deep, for my tastes, into the back catalogue of the classic rock cliché. Not so often as to become annoying, but there are  moments of it on tracks like “15 Dead Stallions,” where the gothic country vibe verges slightly towards hackneyed metaphor, although this track also carries some of the most wonderfully rousing honky-tonk piano. There is maybe also a smattering of Rocky Horror, not a bad thing, but it is there.

The sinister whisper of “Dystopian Wonders” will perhaps please fans of gothic horror, whilst the rolling punk anthem “Delilah 666” is rip-roariously decadent and probably the thing this band does best, while the organ opener on “Debutante Warnings” reminiscent of some of the best of The Cramps. The songs are lyrically challenging, and in-your-face, with  more than a nod to the dark heart of old New York Burlesque. But there is enough cheek for the tongue, and the album feels less weightily serious than old school gothic rock. One thing I particularly like about The Lecher’s Waltz is how complete it feels as a recording, the energy and drive of the opening and middle gradually descending towards the closing “Wicked Weather”’s gentler tone which, sonically if not lyrically, leads you by the hand to the door, reminding you to close it behind you.

-Arwen Xaverine-

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