Dark Little Rooms

Dark Little Rooms

Dark Little Rooms EP

First, let’s get a few preliminaries out of the way. This EP arrived in my mailbox because I wrote the All Music Guide biographical blurb for Fudge, a Virginia band that had a few releases on Caroline Records back in those hazy, formative years of indie rock — a time when the Smashing Pumpkins, Primus, Bracket and the Drop Nineteens were also on the label. Spotting my name on the AMG by-line, former Fudge guitarist David Jones tracked me down (via the technological marvel that brings Ink 19 to your computer) and sent me Dark Little Rooms’ four-song demo CD as part of a DIY media blitz. It was his new project, he explained. As a Fudge fan of yore, he thought I might enjoy it.

Nearly a year later, and after many shufflings of the demo CD from one box to another as I moved back and forth across Europe, I gave it a good, solid listen. I liked it. So then it was my turn to do the tracking down. I e-mailed Scott Crowder, Dark Little Rooms’ pianist/vocalist frontman, and, following several genuine apologies for the delay, told him what I thought of the demo. “Better late than never,” he replied, and within two days the finished, hot-off-the-press EP arrived in a padded envelope.

And that brings us, rather circuitously, to the disc under review: an austere but professional-looking indie release, six songs and a duration of 33 minutes, recorded sporadically over most of last year. Far less sombre than the demo (imagine a morose, heavily sedated Ben Folds Five with a straightforward guitar accompaniment), it is also more rock-oriented. “Wanted It Simple,” for example, walks a distinctly classic rock line, and “In Love and Trouble” has a few riffs out of the Coldplay style manual. The latter is also one of the stronger (and, at nearly eight minutes, longer) songs on the EP.

Disappointingly, three of the stronger songs from the demo never found their way to the EP. And the fourth that did was “No Eyes to See,” not the most compelling track in its earlier form. The version here has added a synthesized string intro and moves the build and conclusion forward about ten seconds, and is all the better for it. Whatever it was lacking before — urgency, perhaps, as well as a sense of tension — it has now.

But despite such omissions and changes, the band hasn’t departed entirely from the sound on the initial demo. “God Given,” for all its debatable drum machine tweaks, is moody, ominous. “In Love and Trouble” and “Colder Before It’s Warmer” have female backing vocals that really accentuate the soul and blues qualities of these songs, both in terms of music and lyrics. The sound of these three evokes loose comparisons to the Afghan Whigs’ despairingly underrated album 1965, which made no secret of its homage to Motown. Dark Little Rooms’ shadings are more subtle, but the parallels are there. Indeed, one of the songs on the demo was “Motown Chorus.”

If there is a weak point to be found here, it is in “Losers [sic] Game,” the appealing but rather generic opening track. On the whole, however, this eponymous release is an auspicious beginning to Dark Little Rooms’ career and a commendable addition to the Fudge lineage. Keep an eye peeled for the full-length.

Dark Little Rooms: http://www.darklittlerooms.com/

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