Harley Poe - Satan, Sex, and No Regrets (Cover Artwork)

Harley Poe

Satan, Sex, and No Regrets (2012)

Chain Smoking Records

Harley Poe is a band full of changes. While the core idea remains the same, the lineup and instruments tend to be all over the place with each release. Harley Poe's last release, Wretched, Filthy, Ugly, found the band playing songs faster and louder than the folksy sound found on Poe's earlier releases. On this release, songmaster Joe Whiteford went into the studio with intentions to play the songs solo, only to have his band members track other instruments later to flesh things out. For, Satan, Sex, and No Regrets, Whiteford's decision to make things quieter has improved his music in more ways than one.

For those unfamiliar with Harley Poe, the group's music has always found comparisons to the Violent Femmes if they were obsessed with Halloween and B-horror movies. This oversimplifies their sound, though a cover of "Country Death Song" wouldn't be unwelcome on …No Regrets. From Whiteford's old band Calibretto to his latest inception of Harley Poe, the music has always been distortion-free and easily fell into the folk-punk label.

No Regrets does something the band's other albums haven't quite gotten across. Finally, Poe's music feels genuinely creepy. The fun-but-cheesy organs have been removed, the electric guitars are gone and in their place we find banjo ("Guitjo," according to the liner notes), upright bass, melodica and acoustic guitars. The backwoodsy feel added to every twisted tale Whiteford howls makes each tune all the eerier.

Familiar subjects are tackled by Poe, with songs ranging from the apocalypse, homicidal revenge, vampires, werewolves and the devil throughout. Whiteford's storytelling style makes these subjects creepier than your favorite gore-obsessed metal band. Not only does Whiteford successfully creep you out, but his ode to Catholicism "Father Mckee" is bound to make some folks very angry. Poe's rendition of traditional Halloween folk tune "The Hearse Song" resonates strongly in its graphic depictions of worms consuming corpses. "Taxidermy Girl" truly captures the essence of Poe, turning a tale about adultery and vengeance. With lyrics like"You are my wife / And I am your husband / I'll pack you with sawdust and dress you up in pretty things / Without you as my wife / I've no reason for life / But I've still got my art," Whiteford's expertise in horror films really shines.

Harley Poe has a habit of rerecording its songs on every record, which may seem frustrating, but the new renditions of early songs like "Transvestites Can Be Cannibals, Too" and "Vampires Night Out" feel welcome with the quieter sound Whiteford and crew presented with this album. Satan, Sex, and No Regrets contains easily some of the strongest material the band has released. By slowing things down and focusing on the lyrics, each song finds its way into your head in no time. The lyrics may be sick, disturbing and creepy, but that doesn't stop them from being fun.