Carrigan, Young Men Never Die
(Radar Recordings/So Good Music, CD)
Two years in the making, Carrigan's latest CD is a major achievement for its creators. For their inordinately patient fans, it's a cause for celebration. The band has undergone several stylistic and personnel changes in its six-year history, and will probably mutate again. But for now, there's Young Men Never Die, an ambitious collection of tunes rich with detail and ingenuity.
Songwriter/vocalist Zach Martin is a handy front man; guitar, keyboards, samples and effects are all part of his sonic stockpile. Drummer Ken Johnson offers plenty of assistance in the form of beats and atmospherics. Together, the two create hypnotic rock that energizes and envelops.
Opener "We Give No Quarter" features haunting acoustic guitars and a somber vocal melody. A cyclical snare pattern sounds in the distance, as the song drifts into a nebula of mingling tones.
A gut-rumbling bass line heralds "Valladolid" -- a staple of Carrigan's live set. The song's driving rhythms and Middle Eastern imagery evoke Led Zeppelin's arid travelogue, "Kashmir." "I'm past the desert sand / and through the mountain air," Martin sings in his arresting tenor.
"Tinderboxes" is built on a bed of rumbling tom-toms and a somewhat sinister guitar figure. The tune is rife with primitive agitation; it's Carrigan's version of crossroads blues. In the tune's second half, tumultuous percussion takes over, driving the music to a trance-inducing peak.
"The Dwarf"'s skeletal bounce comes courtesy of a rugged backbeat and unearthly riff. "You don't like what you are / I don't like it either / There's something loathsome in your eyes," Martin sings in the tune's queasy chorus. "But you are something beautiful / Or maybe just the Antichrist / With spinning roses in your eyes." I've been on dates like that.
Major-key vocals and minor-key synth bass intertwine on the swirling "Talk to My Horse." The song occasionally overdoes the atmospherics, however. Hazy soundscapes are fine and good, but they can't make up for instrumental oomph. Still, the tune's coda would sound great in a '70s horror flick by Dario Argento.
"Sunshine Through the Waves" is positively gorgeous, evoking both Radiohead and George Harrison. The song's slide guitar lines and vocal melody come together in the disc's most gracious musical moments. "Chin Music" -- essentially an acoustic reprise of "Tinderboxes" -- brings the disc to a harmonious close.
Young Men Never Die seems destined to win acclaim beyond Burlington. It's slated for national release later this summer; you can grab the disc early at http://carriganclub.com or local record shops.