The Singing Mechanic
It Wouldn’t Be What It Is
The Carter Family took a wrong turn onto Broadway, got mixed up in some surreal sanctified musical, and in the process, fused genres faster than you could say Billy Sunday Saves Souls on Sunday. This never happened. Or did it? Enter The Singing Mechanic. Hearing the first few tracks on It Wouldn’t Be What It Is brings to mind Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle• moving with ease from gospel to creepy Americana. The Singing Mechanic is a new addition to Famile Danielson’s Soundsfamilyre left-of-the-dial gospel round-up label. (Soundsfamilyre is shaping up to be quite interesting, including bizarro pop act Half-Handed Cloud, droid-jazz flavored Sufjan Stevens, and lo-fi Bible jammers Soul Junk.) Whereas Danielson Famile is less concerned with accessibility than, say, a Jim O’Rourke sponsored Holiness-Pentecostal variety show, The Singing Mechanic swings-low-sweet-melody to the heart•s delight. Lead singer “Vincent Voss’s” vocals vary from Stuart Murdoch (Belle And Sebastian) to Nick Drake, to Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) or a less abrasive David Gedge (Wedding Present).
It Wouldn’t Be What It Is is heavily piano-driven. The songs are folked-out with the parlor piano assuming the place of the tattered old acoustic guitar. This switcheroo works fantastically. Some songs, like “Golden Opportunities,” have that Late Victorian via Victrola feel Of Montreal has made a career out of. But The Singing Mechanic are nary so twee-absurdist. For sheer hit potential, “East Coast/West Coast” deserves mad props. This number takes the best of Belle And Sebastian (“Seeing Other People”) and Nick Drake (“One of These Things First”) to construct a lilting, picturesque pop song. Additionally, the self-consciously witty metaphors and turns of phrase make for an entertaining listen. Although the lyrics are less weighty and deeply affecting than Leonard Cohen’s, “Voss” narrates a religious world that is no less creative and thought-provoking (especially on “No Excuses in Neenah” and “Angels Understood”). All in all, critics and fans alike will have to praise The Singing Mechanic like they should.
Soundsfamilyre, PO Box 225, Clarksboro, NJ 08020; http://www.soundsfamilyre.com