Monday, March 15, 2010

ALCOHOLIC FAITH MISSION'S 'Let This Be The Last Night We Care'

My introduction to Alcoholic Faith Mission was one of those great moments of serendipity. In the week I was recommended them, I also realised they had been added to the bill for The Besnard Lakes show in Manchester which I’m going to. And then later that week a copy of their album “Let This Be The Last Night We Care” came my way.

This is the third album from the five-piece from Copenhagen via New York. So I can’t compare it to 2006’s “Misery Loves Company” (recorded as just a duo) or “421 Wythe Avenue” recorded at said address when the newly expanded five-piece lived in Brooklyn. But after hearing “Let This Be The Last Night We Care” I know I’ll be going back to fill in those gaps in my musical knowledge.

“Folky post-rock” is an appropriate but quite reductive summation of the Alcoholic Faith Mission sound. It doesn’t truly convey their trick of making the intimate sound epic, of making introspection sound universal and gloriously anthemic. Their sojourns in the States have clearly brought a widescreen Americana influence into the mix too.

The twelve track album opens with the rippling and echoing piano of ‘Put A Virus In You’, adding in clattering wooden stick percussion and fragile, yearning vocals. The song keeps building in intensity, volume and grandeur with massed, almost choral vocals by the end. This approach is typical of many but not all the songs. The National-esque shuffle of ‘Got Love? Got Shell-Fish’ alternates a Matt Berninger-like wounded croon from Thorben Seierø Jensen (“I get love from everyone / But you”) with a double-tracked girly-squeak vocal from Kristine Permild and with uplifting whoo-whoos from the whole band. If I’m making it sound too cheery then come wallow in ‘Sobriety Up and Left’ – all hazy heartbreak and one-last-solitary-drink-before-closing sadness and solitude.

In addition to the quality of the songwriting, the two aspects to this record that make it distinctive and so appealing for me are the vocals and the shifting moods. Sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes solo, often massed, the voices can be brittle and fractured, or squeaky almost cartoon character-like or ethereal and floating. And most songs are lovingly draped in a beguiling array of atmospheric touches and crackles.

“Let This Be The Last Night We Care” blends wounded melancholia with quiet folkiness with a sweeping Nordic grandeur. As was said to me "epic introspection never sounded so good". A highly, highly recommended buy - and if you need more testaments to its quality try reading this or this.

Alcoholic Faith Mission are playing three UK dates this month (other European dates here). I can’t wait to hear this record live (a taster from the second album follows below).

27 March - Camden Barfly, London [BUY TICKETS]
29 March – Dulcimer, Manchester (supporting The Besnard Lakes) [BUY TICKETS]
30 March - Wilmington Arms, London (with support from the excellent Deer Park) [BUY TICKETS]

Alcoholic Faith Mission
Let This Be The Last Night We Care [BUY or BUY]


Catshoe said...

Not just me then? Enjoyed your review, nice to get your perspective

Chris @ Hey! Manchester said...

Yup, they're an excellent band - and they're growing on me more with each listen!