More Love And Death

Johnny Parry

Lost Toys Records, 2009

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Rock music has perfected the art of articulating misery, just ask any guy with a guitar who can scream. True, this crude emotion is best executed in the most primal fashion, that of expressing anger the way it is and holding nothing back in. However, for a sophisticated lad like Johnny Parry, this time-tested method of grieving doesn’t cut it; he is yet to discover his inner Trent Reznor (if he has one) and is amply comfortable with his inner Bob Dylan.

More Love And Death is a literal title; but it depicts an album that’s even darker because “love” in this case lugs around with a heavy burden of loss. Parry describes this love simply in the one-stanza closing song “Little Prayer No.14,” singing “Now that you’re gone, please tell me that I’m wrong, for loving you, not loving you.” There is optimism of rebirth and new love found, but which is still haunted by past loss: “There was once death, but now there is love and fields and birds and things, so take me in your thighs” (“Fields And Birds And Things”).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Parry’s eloquent wordplay gets plenty of fodder when he opens up his entire stream of consciousness to spiritual interpretation on “God Loves Me,” which is like a drunken man’s confessions with Parry’s raucous singing in the backdrop of the song’s inebriated horn section. Even here, his new love is strongly held to his gloomy past: “I’ve been divorced, beheaded, died, then I did it all again, and this time I survived.”

On some occasions, “love” stands for the lack of it. But without turning it into an anti-love emo-tragedy, Parry, in his gentlemanly manner expresses the loss in a fashion that is lyrically euphonic. On “Lying Ahull,” which utters best the theme of divorce that looms ambiguously throughout the record, he writes, “I believe that you’re good, and for just once that I was good, but hell will follow me, so let me be the rocks that you throw yourself onto…once I’ve ripped our soul you’ll see, why I and now you’ll have no love to give. So now we can fight, for the custodial rights of our demon spawn.”

This lost-love theme reaches a disturbing twist when it is united with death or what seems like remorseless infliction of pain to preserve love (or being over-possessive of it) on “More Love And Death.” “It’s joyous and it’s awful, this bleak that I have brought you, but it’s yours and it was mine to give,” sings Parry unapologetically, as he ends the song with “I’ll send you letters every day, from the cell where I stay…Loving you is much, much better than death.”

This effort is way grimmer and more difficult than Parry’s previous one Songs Without A Purpose, but musically it is equally as rich. Again, Parry has painfully and meticulously arranged lush string and horn arrangements to perfection. He doesn’t let the pastoral prettiness of the music camouflage the album’s somber themes, but at the same time allows it to convey a sense of solace amid the dismalness of life’s ill-fated blemishes.

As Parry has proved it once more with More Love And Death, his dark and beautiful and complex world is a work of genius.

Rating: A-

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© 2009 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Lost Toys Records, and is used for informational purposes only.