Gospel Haunted

Those Poor Bastards

Tribulations Recording Company, 2010


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


One of my favorite Springsteen tunes is off his acoustic/folk record Nebraska. It's become legendary for its simplicity and lack of arrangements, seeing as how The Boss decided it didn't require The E Street Band treatment. But in particular, I'm talking about "State Trooper." It's menacing and primal; the yelps and screams that Springsteen delivers terrified me the first time I gave it a listen. From an instrumental standpoint, there is nothing different in the basic structure of "State Trooper" than say the popular folk hits of the '60s. It's just a man with his acoustic. The difference is, the former is scary.

Labeling Those Poor Bastards as folk would be a slight stretch. They describe themselves as Gothic country which heretofore was a genre I was completely unawares of. It’s the overall mood and attitude of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Gospel Haunted and “State Trooper” that forms the connection I was referring to earlier. Both recordings are terrifying, in their own ways.

Gospel Haunted is certainly an...well, let’s just call it upbeat record. There’s a cruel demented streak that runs through the record, partnered with an incredibly dark sense of humor. The opener “Glory Amen” starts off as a close approximation of a Johnny Cash gospel standard before descending into a wailing apocalyptic nightmare. And really, it’s about par for the course of anything else on Gospel Haunted.

But as I just said, that darkness and dementia isn’t presented in a maudlin, overwrought way. In the words of the Bastards themselves, it’s raw and it’s mean. Tom Waits, Nick Cave -- they would have to proud of what Those Poor Bastards have done here, because stylistically, this record shares more with them than your traditional country tunes. The menacing organ, the blistering rage-filled vocals, hell, even the Bastards make a banjo intimidating.

It’s on the final track, “Ill At Ease,” where the humor really comes out in full force: it’s 12 minutes long when it doesn’t have to be, but hearing the Bastards throwing out tributes to doo-wop, The Beach Boys, and Led Zeppelin after everything that has come before it is well worth the length. The manic energy that was present throughout the rest of the album falters slightly, but from a thematic standpoint, ;one understands why this song has to end the album. The final piano chords and strum of the banjo bring the proceedings full circle, ending just as conventionally as they began.

That’s where the particular uniqueness of Gospel Haunted comes in: it’s not really conventional whatsoever and those expecting it to be so are going to be disappointed. This not accessible music one plays driving down the road or during a summer BBQ. But if it’s up your alley, don’t hesitate to give it a few spins. Either way, I sense Those Poor Bastards don’t care.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2011 Jeff Clutterbuck 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 Tribulations Recording Company, and is used for informational purposes only.