A Death in the Family - Small Town Stories (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

A Death in the Family

Small Town Stories (2009)

Resist / Poison City

While this is a statement that's surely been made in reviews of their earlier albums, it has to be said: A Death in the Family is Australia's answer to Hot Water Music.

This band's apparently been at it for a few years -- since 2004, in fact, having released a full-length in 2006 and a split 7" in 2007. They frequent comparisons to Leatherface, but there's something much more clear and comprehensible about frontman Atom -- hence the quick comparison to Gainesville's best.

Small Town Stories is a steadfastly mature-sounding, quality take on a well-tread sound, incredibly warm and held down with a ton of restraint. True adult emotion resonates in "Erasing the Maps," where Atom hollers, "We'll erase these maps we've made inside our heads / and we'll teach our limbs to go on without the heart," but there's something careful and temperate about the way he sings it.

Small Town Stories seems to operate largely on one speed and operation, that being a rugged medium tempo. It's a procedure so steady it might bog down the album a bit if not for, among other things, careful flourishes like the surprisingly well-integrated work of violinist Nell Day in tracks like "This Letters Proof" and "Erasing the Maps." Some piano peppers the No-Idea-cum-balladry of "Sinking Slowly," a song that drags a little but does forewarn you with its title. Then there are the Springsteen-esque moments, which come on strongest in "Our Divide," especially with those xylophone plinks or whatever that is, and the anthemic "Traffic"; their current tour with the Gaslight Anthem sure makes sense. The best moment probably comes, however, in the aforementioned "Traffic"; if you're not singing along with the repeated line "Our bodies are melting" (even if you thought Atom was yelling "Your body's a mountain" like I did), you're dead inside.

Small Town Stories needs a few more hooks and bit of fat-trimming (I'm thinking :30 or so from every song), but for someone who tracks down modestly gruff, world-weary punk acts like it was a career, it's hard not to like.

Erasing the Maps
Vodka & Balconies