If you only listen to the first three tracks on the Villagers' debut album, Becoming A Jackal
, you might find yourself preparing for an ever-escalating energy building up inside a bubble that simply can't wait to pop. To the dismay of some and perhaps the delight of others, it never does. By the time we approach mid-album, the band all but boycotts any hints of snare drum they'd dropped along the misty, somewhat eerie path they've led us down, while simultaneously taking everything else down however many notches you need to go to become, well, a little dreary. It seems the Villagers want to take the listener further into their vaguely haunting wilderness. The question is, how long will we follow before deciding to turn back?
The opening track undoubtedly captures attention. Not only is it creepy as hell (the perfect compliment to their album cover), but it truly has a melodic beauty which captures both the oddness and the sadness of the lyrics as it trickles through minor half-steps, building up and winding down with the same madness owned by the song's narrator.
All remains well through "Becoming A Jackal" and "Ship of Promises," the same quick crescendos and eighth-note rhythms leading the way, but all of a sudden, things seem to drop off starting with "The Meaning of the Ritual". Grant it, the sound (or lack thereof) does have a surprising way of fitting with the song title, and it would likely have been fine on its own, except that this Microphones-style lull remains for the rest of the album, with the exception of, "That Day," which is a great tune, but perhaps a little too poppy to fit on this record.
One song worth mentioning is, "Pieces," which finds its roots in Fifties-era balladry; staccato piano chords running under long string melodies, side-by-side with crisp acoustic guitar strums, all guided by one of those rare snare drum appearances. Like many other tracks on the album, the layers fluctuate paradoxically, especially in terms of volume, but the simple changes fit snugly with the tone the tune seems to be setting.
Overall, Becoming A Jackal
is a worthy debut effort. If the Villagers just add a little resolution to their macabre melodies, they will probably get us to follow them even further into the strange wilderness they seem to be traversing. - josh cacopardo
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MP3: "Becoming A Jackal" (Becoming A Jackal)
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