I first heard of the Pinkerton Raid when I attended “Exes With Axes” at Nightlight in Chapel Hill, NC. After Katie DeConto’s astounding performance, she announced that she had The Pinkerton Raid’s debut CD for sale. At my first opportunity, I immediately went over and purchased a copy. I was very glad that I did!
“Santa Rosa” is a phenomenal song that is has many post-punk elements that make it wonderfully addictive. Postpunk guitar, stark percussion, and dark vocals that manage to be powerful yet understated a the same time. The supremely edgy feel to the song is strengthened by the backing vocals that are layered or distant at exactly right places. I dare say that “Santa Rosa” would not be out of place on a Deathrock setlist.
“Could You Wait?” is a bit slower, with languid keyboards and percussion that momentarily turns almost tribal. Lead vocals are gripping and evocative, and I love the understated, yet essential, backing vocals. Suddenly, the guitar springs out of the shadows like a gunfighter, supporting absolutely masterful and gripping harmonies.
I heard Katie perform “Life of the Party” at Exes With Axes, so I was very happy to see this song on the CD. This is a wonderful vibrant, upbeat song that is also a bit tongue-in-cheek and cleverly cynical. The vocals are mesmerizing, and there is a fine interplay that sound complicated from a technical point of view, yet remain very accessible.
“The Bullfrog” starts out with a mesmerizing riff and very smooth vocals. This is a wonderful piece that is sort of jazzy, but is very pensive and evocative. “words cannot describe, silence….” I love the backing vocals at about 2 minutes into the song, along with the edgy guitar that suddenly springs from the background.
“Piano Queen” has a nice, syncopated Jazz influenced pace, with a delightful hint of Funk on bass. Jesse’s vocals are cool, languid, and decadent with a touch of menace. Katie’s strident keyboards lend a strident, speakeasy air and her backing vocals are magical. Great song for a Steampunk night.
“Those Curves” has some fine psychedelic guitar, interspersed with hypnotic bass and steady, distant percussion. Vocals are fantastic, with Jesse’s voice having a hint of echo, buttressed by operatic layering on the backing vocals. Katie sounds marvelous, reminding me of Edie Brickell. The song rises to a very visceral and gripping ending. “The Road swings left, the Road swings right…”
“Paris” has a sad, reflective start, that is strangely counterbalanced by the steady percussion. The song has a 60′s feel, which is heightened by organ expertly hovering subtly underneath. Yet it also manages to project a very contemporary and sharply honed sensibility.
“Trouble” is a wonderfully complex song with a lush, full texture in a Crazy Horse-meets-Traffic sort of way. Jesse and Katie’s vocals weave around each other marvelously. “Some subtle, sculptor has melancholy traced
In furrows, furrows, innocence gone, erased...” Percussion is emphatic yet not intrusive. The guitar is very incisive at the right places, while bass and keyboards linger artfully at the edges of perception.
Perhaps the most forceful song on the CD, “Like a Brother” has an anthem like quality, with hypnotic bass lines and expertly layered guitar. The piano and Jesse’s vocals remind me of John Lennon’s later works. Percussion sets the pace, while the guitar emerges fitfully into the spaces between, only to become more prominent as the song progresses. Then the percussion turns rather tribal, Katie’s voice adds an almost mystical dimension to the song. “…maybe someday we’ll sing together again.”
“Lullaby Butterfly” starts with a poignant glockenspiel effect. The vocal arrangements are particularly well done and intriguing on this song. Jesse’s and Katie’s vocals are lower here, and merge excellently with the soulful keyboards, yet are also somewhat discordant. The lyrics and harmonies are quite ethereal in the Gothic sense, yet the song is also quite uplifting. Sporadic guitar sounds a bit like Neil Young on the “Dead Man” soundtrack. nudging the song to its finish while exquisite harmonies fade away and the final note of the keyboard sounds. “The light that makes the flowers rise/Will shine upon your colors bright…”
The Pinkerton Raid may play in college towns and is frequently placed in the ‘indie’ category, but make no mistake, they are definitely not your typical garden variety college rock or indie band. With its high quality production, exquisite harmonies, and masterful arrangements, this is a fine CD. The lyrics are intricate with a poetic depth which is matched only by the musical dexterity and versatility of the band. Mirroring the human condition, the music shifts effortlessly from dark and reflective to upbeat. The Pinkerton Raid is clearly among the growing number of underground musicians who demonstrate their fully developed talent from the beginning. I have no doubt that they will go nowhere but up, and I look forward to their next CD.
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