Press play – cd review

Venice Is Sinking
Sorry About The Flowers
[One Percent Press, 2006]

In a musical world dominated by poorly crafted hip-hop, awfully written rock songs and predictable post-punk Gang of Four-worshipping bands, Venice Is Sinking’s debut album, Sorry About The Flowers, is a breeze of fresh air amidst the arid landscape that is known as “popular music.”

Venice is Sinking take their cues from unappreciated bands that left an undeniable mark on the fabric of rock; groups such as Galaxie 500, Low, Luna, Yo La Tengo, or Seekonk, are all undeniably brilliant and unequivocally important, and yet their predecessors are more difficult to find than a pot of gold. However, if you put forth the effort to listen to Venice Is Sinking’s debut album, you will come out with just that ?” a pot of shimmering gold that will make you smile and look for rainbows all day long. Sorry About The Flowers is full of low-key, chiming and slightly lost and forlorn singing, at times wry and whimsical, often achingly sad, but it forms the perfect counterpoint to the songs’ paces, feeling like a gauzy dream. When Daniel Lawson (guitar/vocals) comes up with his own brand of electric guitar heroics, it’s very much in the less-is-more vein of Lou Reed and his descendents, setting the moods via strumming and understated but strong soloing.

Scattered across the album’s 10 tracks are innumerable instances of unadulterated lo-fi, sadcore, semi-orchestrated pop-rock par excellence. Breathtakingly gorgeous moments, such as “Pulaski Heights’s” pealing strings and poignant melody, and “Andropolis’s” build from delicate harmonies into a gently triumphant swell of guitars, vocals and sparkling percussion, affirm that Venice Is Sinking have refined their sound to a point that is utterly brilliant for a debut, but still leaves space for a promising follow-up. Another instance of Venice is Sinking’s ability to combine subtle uplift with blissed-out melancholia, building to an inspiring ending is the Yo La Tengo-homage “Buried Magnets.” Then there is the Godspeed You Black Emperor!-inspired final track, “Blue By Late,” 20 minutes of humming cacophony and film-like subtlety, replete with sounds of a surf and blips of electronics. Meanwhile, “Undecided” could have been played at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance in Back to the Future with its blushingly heartfelt demeanor delicately prodded by a Karloyn Troupe (Vocals/Viola) and Daniel Lawson duet.

But just because Venice is Sinking’s influences loom large in the group’s sound doesn’t mean that this is a Frankenstein-like cut-and-paste job of bits and pieces of different sounds and styles; on Sorry About The Flowers, the group creates a presence all its own. Songs like “CSX” drift along on gentle guitars, keyboards, and buried drums before swelling into triumphant crescendos, buoyed along by wurlitzers, cellos, pianos, flutes and insistently chanted vocals. This approach could be considered formulaic if the results weren’t so pretty and, at times, moving.

The result of the songs on Sorry About The Flowers is a warm, vibrating record that at times can turn anthemic and rollicking. It would be easy to expound on the merits of just the production, but the key to even that success lies in great songwriting. And yet, what Venice Is Sinking do particularly well is stay grounded, close to the earth and real. The music is so warm it’s a literal caress from the speakers ?” and that’s no simple feat in their notoriously chilly genre.