Wisdom & Failure, the latest album from electro noire pop duo no:carrier, is a musical exploration of the comforting, if not particularly original idea that from failure comes wisdom. While some might argue that a truism as obvious as that needs no exploration, musical or otherwise, art is less concerned with saying something new than it is in saying things well, saying things beautifully. As the poet says, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” What you have to say needn’t be new, so long as it is said with style.
And if there is one thing no:carrier has in spades, it is style. Cynthia Wechselberger, who handles vocals, has the kind of haunting voice that perfectly embodies the darkness of partner Chris Wirsig’s vision. Wirsig, a man of all trades, writes all the music, plays keyboards, does background vocals, and produces as well. His music is all pulsating rhythms, understated dark vocals, and as often as not surprisingly catchy melodies. Of the dozen tracks on the album there isn’t a one that isn’t at least interesting, and the lion’s share are capably crafted pop songs.
They open with the almost lilting melody of “Alone Now” which seems to contrast with the isolation of the lyric, but certainly makes the point about learning from experience. The same is true for “Sunset Castle” with its eerie opening and its forecast that the “sunset castle you’re building/will crumble to dust come dawn” set in a melody that has the makings of an ear worm.
“Last Scene” seems like something that could have been written by Kurt Weill and sung by Lottie Lenya. “The Nine Days Queen,” about Lady Jane Grey, has the feel of one of those darkly dramatic old English ballads. One thinks of the camp songs about Ann Boleyn walking the bloody tower with her head tucked underneath her arm. “Owes You Nothing” seems a bit too pedantically obvious in its message, although the album’s title song which closes the set is a bit more cryptic.
By the way, Cassidy Bliss Cooper’s album cover, picturing two girls representing wisdom and failure set in a bleak winter landscape, alone would be worth the price of the album. That it comes along with the package is just one more selling point.