The Horrible Crowes - Elsie (Cover Artwork)

The Horrible Crowes

The Horrible Crowes: ElsieElsie (2011)
Side One Dummy Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: AnchorsAnchors
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Side projects are a fickle mistress. For every successful foray from an original project–Tom Petty in the Traveling Wilburys comes to mind–there's three unmitigated disasters like Boxcar Racer. Or, as we've recently seen from the "not amicable" dissolution of Alexisonfire, there's the.
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Side projects are a fickle mistress.

For every successful foray from an original project–Tom Petty in the Traveling Wilburys comes to mind–there's three unmitigated disasters like Boxcar Racer. Or, as we've recently seen from the "not amicable" dissolution of Alexisonfire, there's the ever-present danger of a side project creating a rift in the main project.

It's far too early to make any such insinuations about the eventual path of Brian Fallon's new side project, the Horrible Crowes, but several things have already been set to concrete: namely that this is not a Gaslight Anthem B-sides record, and, more importantly, Fallon sounds quite comfortable using a wider range of musical influence than he's tried his hand at before.

From punk to soul, and from funk to folk, one thing is for certain: The Horrible Crowes are willing to take chances. Fallon and collaborator Ian Perkins work masterfully together on Elsie, telling beautiful and heartbreaking stories all along the way.

The album is guided into heartbreaking territory right away with the brief but pointedly morose "Last Rites". A piano-driven reflection of finality, Fallon lets the piano and ever-so-gentle pitter-patter of the snare create the perfect backdrop while singing "Start up the car, bury your memories / call up your lovers, speaking slow and heavy / call up your boyfriends, from out by the ocean / I get my last rites read by thieves" until the piano stops and the snare fades into silence. It's songs like this that really bring out one of Fallon's biggest strengths–he doesn't need to be soaring like it's the chorus of "The ā??59 Sound". He's just as effective and just as gripping in a variety of vocal styles.

That said, Elsie still does give him ample opportunity to soar.

Fallon wastes no time on "Behold the Hurricane", launching into rousing "whoa-oh-oh"s over a brilliantly simple chord progression where he sounds so completely at home. The clean riffing and taut percussion seem to jibe with Fallon's every change in inflection, and when the chorus sweeps in, Fallon and Perkins change the riffing to match. It's exactly the kind of centerpiece the record needed, and exactly the change-of-pace song the album needed after such somber beginnings.

But don't get too comfortable.

The Horrible Crowes follow up "Behold the Hurricane" with an organ-based track that wouldn't sound entirely out of place on a Parliament record. The bouncy, funk-laden "I Witnessed a Crime" surprises in another way: Fallon's vocals are hushed and near-whispered. The organ and percussion take the reins while Fallon is comfortable in the reserves, slinking over the beat and never imposing; when the organ cuts away for some clean picking, Fallon's voice picks up some spunk and attitude. It's small nuances like that, nuances found all over the record, that really make it memorable. Keeping with that momentum is "Go Tell Everybody", an absolute howler of a track that, for the first time on the album lets Fallon untether and just ride the southern-tinged wave.

Exploding out of the gate exclaiming "I've been known to wear a fine black suit, and moldover tie / I've got miles on my shoes, that your brothers can't buy," Fallon seems to have a sneer and a scowl that motors the track through a rollicking, organ-backed chorus and right into another incensed verse. Not only does the amalgamation of southern rock and funk work, it works well. It sounds completely organic and it gives the record yet another dimension to add to a crowded field of them.

As the album progresses, Fallon and Perkins try their hand at pop-acoustic sampling ("Black Betty & The Moon"), gospel ("Mary Ann"), and minimalist beauty ("I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together"), but it's "Crush" that hits harder than any of the 11 other tracks.

Above gorgeous, low-key, clean progressions that wouldn't be out of place on one of Explosions in the Sky's softer efforts, Fallon sounds positively haunting. There's a very real and very tangible anguish in his voice and it comes out in every painful lyric.

"Pour yourself a drink, I'll sing you a song/ Don't worry about the money honey, I've got a job / Baby I've been right, call me when you drown / I can wait all night, I've spent my whole life a little less up than my downs / I know a secret, everybody tell, who goes to heaven, who goes to hell / And I know one thing sure is true, I've never kept a secret: I've got a crush on you."

Fallon's verbal eloquence is superseded only by the gripping delivery of the song, and with every pickup in intensity the words hold that much more weight. It's never overwrought, it's never contrived, it's genuine emotion and it's absolutely pouring through.

Prior to the album's release, Fallon promised influence from Nick Cave. From the National. Afghan Wings. And it's all there. But what's more important, infinitely more important, is that Fallon's mark is there. His indelible mark is present in all 12 of these songs. His voice and his songwriting ability have such a strong impression, that it's not at all a stretch to think that 15-20 years down the line, bands will be citing Fallon as an influence. Bands will do what they can to sound just like him.

But nobody ever will.


People who liked this also liked:
The Gaslight Anthem - American SlangThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimFrank Turner - England Keep My BonesThe Gaslight Anthem - HandwrittenThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsThe Flatliners - CavalcadeBomb the Music Industry! - VacationAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl Rose

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
bowlercap (January 23, 2012)

Spot on.

AgainstYou (October 13, 2011)

Album of the year.

herovanwildebeest (October 3, 2011)

Good review, great album, I haven't stopped listening to it since the day I got it.

Just one thing with the lyrics, someone else has corrected one of the errors, but where you've written "I've been known to wear a fine black suit, and moldover tie / I've got miles on my shoes, that your brothers canā??t buy," it should be "and a murder of a tie", according to the record sleeve.

originaljohnny (September 26, 2011)

great record! BUT...one slight complaint. i still hear enough gaslight elsewhere on the record. i guess, markedly the "behold the hurricane" track. this song is the exact formula for a gaslight song, just slowed down. same chord progression, similar type of rhythm in the guitar lead...just played slower. otherwise, fallon excels most when he strays into new territories most. the best songs sound nothing like something gaslight would do (ladykiller, sugar, black betty..., crush - although i don't seem to like crush as much as everyone else). great job, and for sure - this guy is a marvelous talent. GLAD it's not just "an acoustic record from the gaslight dude"

jrowe182 (September 12, 2011)

Anyone else think this album kinda sounds like Fake Problems?

nina_d (September 8, 2011)

I didn't read any of this, but Elsie is so good.

skolarx (September 8, 2011)

i can't believe Dulli's other stuff was mentioned but The Gutter Twins were left out... so incredible.

i'm listening through the Corws record a second time (bought it on my lunch break) nothing has slapped me the way 59 Sound did but sometimes it's better for a record to be a grower, seems those are the ones i don't get sick of as quick

goodbye_kid (September 8, 2011)

dear reviewer, shut the fuck up about box car racer. fucking great band.
elsie is awesome. i like it better than last GA's release

Dedricthere (September 7, 2011)

I took me a looong fuckin' time to get into American Slang (which I now dig today). Other than that, everything Fallon does is a fuckin' homerun in my book.

DylanB (September 7, 2011)

Can't wait to see The Horrible Crowes next week in LA at the Troubador. It will be a magical night indeed, this album is damn near perfect. I love Ladykiller and I witnessed a crime.

AK3punk (September 7, 2011)

Incredible album. It kind of blends but I'm loving it so much, Brain Fallon is such an incredible vocalist you can't help but fall in love with this album.

brystr06 (September 7, 2011)

This ties Give Up by The Postal Service as my favorite night time/fall asleep record.

CharlieLebowski (September 6, 2011)

Im kind of dreading listening to this.
I wanna hear it because I loved loved loved the 59 sound.

Didnt like anything else they did really. Not even Senor and the queen. And American Slang was garbage. At least their early stuff had some decent tracks. A.S just felt forced.

keithybobeefy (September 6, 2011)

The Afghan Wigs, The Twilight Singers, and Greg Dulis solo stuff are all pretty great.

exitenglish1208 (September 6, 2011)

great album, crush is my favorite for sure

damnitsderek (September 6, 2011)

First listen bored me. I'll give it another shot, though.

happynolucky (September 6, 2011)

great album, enough said.

thepopeofchili-town (September 6, 2011)

Anyone else get kind of an Aggrolites vibe from "I Witnessed a Crime"?

MuhammadMormon (September 6, 2011)

Checked out the stream... boring as shit.
Band name is fitting.

pallmallpunch (September 6, 2011)

Not sure "I Witnessed A Crime" reminds me of Parliament exactly, but I guess the real point is that this is a great fucking album. Better than American Slang, and I really liked that record. I was hoping for something like this as soon as I heard "We Did It When We Were Young," restraint looks good on Fallon.

greek91 (September 6, 2011)

can't wait to hear this. the review was fanfuckintastic, one of the best I've read this year

wallofyouth (September 6, 2011)

i was just wondering why petty would come to mind instead of the guy who wrote all the best songs, but it was just a passing thought during my reading comprehension studies, no big deal

mattramone (September 6, 2011)

I have problems sleeping and this album totally helps with that!

foolsgold (September 6, 2011)

This is a fantastic album. Fallon seems much more comfortable with these songs than in Gaslight, and it really shows. The production is top-notch, so if you can listen to this on a good stereo or with good headphones you really owe it to yourself to do so. The sound is unbelievably warm and full and really brings the songs to life in a way that I've rarely experienced. Definitely in this year's top 10.

thepopeofchili-town (September 6, 2011)

There's been so much great music coming out in the last couple weeks and I haven't given any of it the proper attention it deserves because this record is so damn good. Album of the year. Great review, too.

jacknife737 (September 6, 2011)

So fucking good.

Anchors (September 6, 2011)

1) Where did I say Tom Petty was responsible for the success of the Traveling Wilburys? I said he was a part of the group. Reading Comprehension.

2) If you don't think the Traveling Wilbury's first record was terrific you are a straight-up jackass.

BrainTrust (September 6, 2011)

Who are the Afghan Wings?

Longshot (September 6, 2011)

Is this worth checking out for someone like myself who think the Gaslight Anthem are a boring lot who play the same song over and over again?

drunkwithpower (September 6, 2011)

You consider the Traveling Willburys a success? There goes your credibility.

colin (September 6, 2011)

certainly better than the last gaslight anthem record, but probably not a 9/10. 7/10, there are some really awkward moments around this album.

wallofyouth (September 6, 2011)

i love him too but tom petty doesn't deserve the credit for the wilburys

Michael_Berryman (September 6, 2011)

Boxcar Racer was great, i don't know what you're talking about.

BluthCo (September 6, 2011)

I'm glad this band turned out to be more creative than just Gaslight played slower (side projects always have those kinds of risks). Upon listening to the stream, I didn't like it quite as much as Gaslight's albums, but I feel like it might sink in more on future listens.

Tye (September 6, 2011)

Anybody else feel that this album paves the way for every future Gaslight record to sound the exact same?

frankthep (September 6, 2011)

I was on the fence about getting this but this review conviced me...nice job.

publichousing (September 6, 2011)

This record is perfect and I am certain that it will become an undisputed classic with time. Come at me.

"Sugar" is the best track imo. I cannot believe how many times I've listened to it over the past 3-4 days (it has to be more than 100 times now). Outstanding. "Cherry Blossoms" reminds me of Knucke Down-era Ani Difranco, which is a good thing. The album flows so well too.


keithybobeefy (September 6, 2011)

ā??Pour yourself a drink, Iā??ll sing you a song/ Donā??t worry about the money honey, I've got a job"

Pour yourself a drink, I'll sing you a song/Don't worry about the money honey, I've got a tab a mile long.

Such a great verse.

keithybobeefy (September 6, 2011)

This is even better than I expected and I expected it to be great.

hayman (September 6, 2011)

Looking forward to having a proper listen to this.

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