Secret Album 6

You can hear them breathing before the delicacy lifts onto the air. Twinned and entwined, the two guitars dance around one another as human voices drone and intone biblical motifs, cuss words and longing – longing is the word. The opening number dies like bathwater draining down and segues into swamp banjo blues. This is all very live. We are stretched somewhere between The Stones and 1768. Thick swathes of forest and peeling wooden church-houses, a keening call from the past, a brilliant deception: dressed in civil war clothes, singing an acidic parody of sepia sentiment, weird modern wolves breathe vodka fury under the sacrificial lambswool.

The ballads break hearts and are filled with devastated mystery. They operate on the mind like photographs from an unreachable dream. Scenes from the small town rock and roll circuit speak of unfathomable sadness. Ruination and emptiness call from the souls of regular folks; immigrants, musicians and cleaners.

Permeating the dryness and sly light is a strong strain of the sexual. They are twinned and entwined – in the morning air like birds – but also the evening murk like dogs in ditches. Pretty girls in lace summer dresses, the songs might sound as if they’re on their way to sunday school but their shoulders are beaded with sweat and their minds are filled with doubt. The sweet forest stream leads to a waterfall boring into a pool of turmoil.

Peopled by living ghosts and mocked by a gentle breeze the world of this album is a holocaust of hope, a beautiful destroyed landscape, a long road leading to oblivion. Ancestors call through the darkness and their voices lick around television sets and seat-belts hanging undone on their hooks, rest-stop picnic tables, motel curtains and concrete causeways. Longing, that is the word.

The world darkens, diminishes, the volume is falling, the waltz is slowing. You can hear them breathing in the fader’s slow slide to the stop. The eye that opened on the dream is closing but the road keeps rolling into that horizon of everything you hoped for and never had and never will.