The View From Nowhere

The Sideshow Tragedy

Hand Drawn Records / Old Soul Records, 2017

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Sometimes a sound just fits the moment—that was one of a hundred thoughts that flew by before the end of the first track from The Sideshow Tragedy’s new album The View From Nowhere. Despite its stripped-down, notably retrophile trappings, the group’s intense, poetic, at times apocalyptic blues-rock has never felt more current, more relevant, more powerful.

Opener “Lost Time” feels like a slam-poetry rewrite of the week’s headlines, Nathan Singleton’s forceful deadpan describing “The age of calamity” over the wide-open beat laid down by Jeremy Harrell and the ominous, darkly jangling chords Singleton coaxes from his trademark resonator guitar: “Time looks different from behind / The choreography, the set design / It all looks fake, a mock-up, a perfect crime.” The duo are joined again by ace producer Kenny Siegal on Hammond organ, while Singleton layers on bass and touches of slide, giving their sound an unaccustomed fullness without obscuring the ferocity at its core.

If “Lost Time” was about restraint, “Piston Blues” is about unleashing the floodgates, a runaway train of a song, all adrenalin and aggression as Singleton and Harrell strip it down to just guitar and drums and thrash-and-bash for all they’re worth. Third track “Trust” is where you feel the first evidence of an evolution in sound from the brutally raw my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Capital, a mid-tempo number with a seriously funked-up rhythm chart and a substantial role for Siegal’s keys on the choruses.

“Nobody” returns to more familiar territory, an intense number that spotlights Singleton’s vocals as he essays evocative lines like “Pickin up the pieces of the stars that fell / Heaven don’t want me, they’re afraid I’ll take over hell.” Maybe it’s influenced by the especially sinewy sound of the guitars here, but for the first time when listening to these guys I heard a little Michael Hutchence in Singleton’s vocals, that throaty charisma.

The biggest stretch arrives with “Time To Taste,” as the guys add Ben Senterfit’s baritone and tenor saxes to the mix. While it distracts a bit from the elemental sound that is the duo’s stock in trade, in this isolated case it works, as much as anything because Senterfit matches their tone, playing raw, honking lines that function more as exclamation points than melody. “Afraid To Fall” offers more powerful imagery sung with a natural insouciance and intensity that can’t help but remind of Bowie or Lou Reed.

The final third of this brief yet substantial 34-minute album is just as strong as what preceded it. “Long Time Coming” again adds bass and keys, giving the group extra layers of sound without losing the thread; it’s just a fuller shade of ominous intensity, building to an eerie, penetrating solo. “For Your Love” (not The Yardbirds song!) strips things back down, Singleton’s distorted guitars swirling and looming over Harrell’s pulsating, stuttering beat.

The closing title track adopts an airier feel, its nearly hypnotic cadence turning the song into an incantation, another dark poem leaving just a flicker of hope at the end:

“I’m searching through memory
For something to tether myself to
Something to have and to hold and to feed and to clothe
And make me honest, too
But it slips through my fingers and I’m frozen in time
Like a clock without any hands
So I’ll just try and not forget my lines
And remember I’ve still got a chance.”

It’s interesting to hear Singleton and Harrell stretching and pulling their sound a bit here, exploring a side road or two off the main highway of their raw guitar-and-drums sound without losing their way. They’ve set themselves up for a challenge in that the spare intensity of their sound is the essence of its appeal, but they manage to navigate through the addition of new elements by holding tight to the raucous, edgy style that gives their music its power.

Very much of its moment, The Sideshow Tragedy’s The View From Nowhere delivers a gritty-cool nine-song soundtrack to the apocalypse that almost makes you not mind it coming.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2018 Jason Warburg 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 Hand Drawn Records / Old Soul Records, and is used for informational purposes only.