As the drunker, punkier cousins of The Waterboys and the inbred cousins of Flogging Molly, Murder by Death begs to be listened to with a pint in the hand, in the sort of establishment where your tapping foot would stick to the floor. I’ve spent many a happy hour locked in a pub after hours with a motley crew of amateur songsmiths singing all the old tunes. Red of Tooth and Claw is pleasantly reminiscent of those boozy times.
Several attempts to categorise their sound have seen Murder by Death acquire the odd tag of cello-rock. This doesn’t bode well for those who haven’t happened across their music; the cello is such a doleful instrument, it’s hardly an enticement to try. To be fair, there’s no denying the sombre undercurrents, but rest assured, there is a good portion of ebullient bounce to be had – albeit with a barely concealed sneer.
Red of Tooth and Claw measures its pace carefully, switching comfortably from swaggering energy of the opener, “Comin’ Home”, to the funeral instrumental “Theme (for Ennio Morricone)” resplendent in all it cello-y desolation. Adam Turla’s rich, expressive voice wraps itself around the strings to create an altogether emotional result. From the desperate and mournful “A Second Opinion” which makes you ache, to the rollicking fun of “Steal Away”. Indeed, by the fourth run through of “Ashes” I was singing along at the top of my voice as I drove, but perhaps that says less about the robust melodies and more about my own in-car entertainment shame.
The lyrics tell of the age old battles between good, evil and each other. All are fine examples of the storytelling art and complete a rounded package of an album that reads as well as it sounds.
It came out a wee while ago, and now it’s April, but in a month where my reviewing was delayed by my car being written off by an idiot in a white van, this CD followed me around all my hire cars and kept my spirits high throughout. As therapy goes I can recommend that you cheer yourself up with a bit of Murder.