Originally meant as the first full-length CD from Calibretto on Standard Recording Company, Harley Poe's In The Dark was released as Joseph Whiteford's new project. Harley Poe consists of all former band members from Calibretto: Joseph Whiteford (lead singer, assorted guitars, harmonica), Chad Serhal (bass, backing vocals), and Christopher Thomas (drums, backing vocals, bells, chimes). In The Dark was made available for pre-order by Standard Recording Company back in March but was not released until October/November. A book featuring artwork and lyrics by Whiteford should be accompanying the CD but it has not been printed yet.
Unlike earlier work by the band members, Harley Poe is very dark lyrically. All but one of the tracks feature some form of death or horror but most convey an important message. "Transvestites Can Be Cannibals Too" professes a message about accepting others and not judging people based on their appearance; "You're so shallow minded, you think I'm only what you see" sings Whiteford. Other songs involve Whiteford's obsession with horror movies; vampires, zombies, killers and STDs make their way into the lyrics of In The Dark. All of the tracks are beautifully written. Each song details a flowing story without interruptions from numerous repetitive refrains. Whiteford shows definite maturity in writing ability and composition, as his earlier material lost its impact when plagued by repeating lines and phrases.
Songs from In The Dark have a certain structure to them. Most tracks follow a pattern of "intro, verses, solo, verses, solo, built up outro" which works every time. The songs vary in beats that range from folk-punk to slow laments. "Corrupting My Better Half" is a wonderful example of a formed, somber story, where Whiteford creates a series of fictional events in which the main character is running from the police on murder charges and is struggling in a relationship with the woman he loves.
Other songs focus more on revenge and perhaps alienation experienced by Whiteford himself as a teenager. Slow-melodied "Prom Night" describes the deadly actions taken by someone who was turned down for a date to the school dance; "You're the king of the neighborhood; I'm ugly and misunderstood. You used to put me down; soon you'll be in the ground," sings Whiteford in "Homicidal Maniac." But who didn't have bullies in high school and wished they were dead?
Moreover, Harley Poe is comprised up of truly talented musicians. Christopher Thomas' drum rolls and beats are perfect. Serhal's bass lines are wonderful in the intro to "Corrupting My Better Half" as well as in "I Can Always Eat Your Brain," "Homicidal Maniac," and "Date With The Undead." Whiteford sings with unparalleled sincerely and energy throughout every song.
In The Dark is also packed with additional backing instruments and musical effects. "The Uglies" has a distorted voice intro, backing strings, a banjo, electric distortion and a combination of acoustic and electric guitars. Bells and chimes are also used to enhance certain songs. "The Girl That Had Syphilis" benefits greatly from the corresponding bell notes as does "Transvestite Can Be Cannibals Too." The backing vocals from Serhal and Thomas further improve the depth of the music.
But one instrument seems to be overdone. The backing mandolin seems to be a little overstressed. In "I'm Coming For You," it's poorly placed within the song when it oddly begins and abruptly ends. It also often drowns out Whiteford's acoustic guitar. Although the backing strings complement songs like "Corrupting My Better Half” and “Vampires Night Out,” their overall effect is unfavorable.
In The Dark also contains four live recordings of "I'm Coming For You," "Prom Night," "Corrupting My Better Half," and "Homicidal Maniac." These versions are stripped down acoustic versions performed only by Whiteford. The bonus tracks enlighten listeners on Whiteford's quirky sense of humor as he talks in between songs and during guitar solos. Additionally, the recordings pick up the reactions of the audience. The audience's laughter at different lines from the songs is hilarious. The laughter seems so misplaced when in conjunction with the songs. When Whiteford sings "He won't be special when he's dead, when I come chop off his head," the audiences lights up. Why? I don't really know.
Anyway, thanks for reading and please support this band in any way possible. In The Dark is a truly amazing piece of art. High-quality, semi-gothic folk punk from Kokomo, Indiana. It can't get any better. The Standard Recording site has some MP3s available for download.