Album Review: Cursed Arrows’ - “The Madness of Crowds”

Album Review by Ira Henderson

Cursed Arrows’ album “The Madness of Crowds” is filthy. But I think that’s the idea. Eight tracks of huge, gritty rock chug by like a lurching freight train. The guitar is huge. The drums are huge. The lyrics are, you guessed it, huge. There is little subtlety, little virtuosity, no showing off and no respite to be found on this album. Sometimes, however, big, loud and hard do the trick.

The overall sound of the album is thick and chunky. It is reminiscent of the alternative rock of the nineties. Heavy, raspy thump and screech music. Well balanced, no one aspect taking centre stage, everything comes together to make a writhing jumble of thick rhythmic noise. There are also some mellower moments but I’m painting in broad strokes here. Although most of the music is fundamentally simple and repetitive, Cursed Arrows avoids getting boring by switching up the tempo and chord progressions fairly often, sometimes several different times during the same song. This usually works but can sometimes be a little jarring.

The guitar work is good, though uncomplicated, in the style of the early White Stripes or the heavier side of The Smashing Pumpkins. Simple, chunky, repetitive and distorted as all fuck. There are a few short bluesy riffs, a couple of arpeggios, and a couple of screechy, distorted solos, but most of it is just good old-fashioned pounding power-chords. Sometimes the shifting tempo can cut a good musical tangent off before its time, and sometimes the constant power chords are a little overpowering, but overall a balance is struck. The sound is beefed up by layering different chunks over top of each other and sliding ‘em left and right in the stereo recording. The effect is almost claustrophobically effective, in a (mostly) good way.

The drumming is usually straight-forward four-four rock and throb. They keep up a consistent pumping pace, and there are a couple of impressive tricks in there, but there is little variation in style or tone. Overall the drumming is strong and confident, if a little heavy-handed at times. On a few tracks it sounds like someone’s beating the crap out of a dying tambourine, which I find distracting. But maybe that’s just me.

The vocals are often layered. The male and female voices weave in and out (did I mention that this two-hander band is also a couple?), multiplying and echoing around the stereo environment, to create a vast, ethereal feeling. I wouldn’t call any track a duet, and the harmonies, when there are any, are not exactly complex. Instead, the multiple voices take turns supporting each other through layering and repetition. What with all the layers, however, along with all the crunch and bang of the music, the words can get muddled and lost from time to time. That may contribute to the feeling that the lyrics are a little disjointed.

These lyrics lean toward non-linear, surreal pastiche. A lot of the songs are composed of random declarative statements, variations on a vague theme. They’re mostly dark and mostly left-leaning. There are allusions to individualism, environmentalism, anti-war and anti-capitalist sentiments, natural disasters, ancient wisdom and honey-dripping tongues. Among other things. Jesus is mentioned repeatedly in a song called “Strip Joint Roundabout” but I can’t make out the rest of the words, so I don’t know what it’s all about. References to Jesus usually weird me out no matter what the context. That is just me.

In summation: if you like it loud, check out “The Madness of Crowds” from Cursed Arrows at OR check out their eastern Canada tour dates OR they’ll be back in Halifax at the North Street Church on May 20th.


1 comment:

Ryan said...

The line is "Riding by on a bike he said 'Jesus is the lord and not Neil Young'", which was inspired by a guy riding by on a bike saying something that sounded like that.