Cabaret of Daggers
Tav Falco has been lurking around the dark alleyways and back rooms of the music world since he slithered onto the scene with Panther Burns in the early 1980s. Along with Alex Chilton and the Gibson Brothers Falco energized a rambunctious revival of Memphis roots music. Forty years on and his co-conspirators have evolved from dissipated Southern Gentlemen to a crew of passionate Italians. His home base is Vienna rather than Beale Street yet a primal Americana is still at the core of Tav’s soul.
Cabaret of Daggers suggests a back street cellar dive existing in a time warp. Like his old running partner, Alex Chilton in his later releases, Falco is largely mining the “Great American Songbook” for inspiration. Falco isn’t on a feel good nostalgia trip. Falco ranges from the comparatively upbeat “Sally Goes Round the Roses” to the utter devastation of “Strange Fruit”. “Nobody’s Baby” and “Born to Be Blue” strike a melancholy chord. The Astor Piazzola classic “Strange (libertango)” is a lovely tango in the dark.
Falco brings a few of his own songs to the Cabaret. “Red Vienna” is an opium dream, a waltz through the interwar years. The tune is full of melancholy. While he sings of the great high points of the cities early 20th Century glory, the creeping rise of fascism curdles the cream of nostalgia.
While “Red Vienna” is a subtle, cautionary tale, “New World Order Blues” kicks you in the ass. It’s a rallying cry against the dumb yourself down, or get out of town trend we’re seeing all around. Who could he possibly be talking about when he calls out the “perfect puppet head wearing the Orangutan diaper of malignant rage”? The tune fades out on the disturbing thought that we’re witnessing the destruction of mankind. Cabaret of Daggers isn’t a feel good album (although there are feel good moments). Falco cites the fucked up past as a warning to our fucked up present. Who knows where this trip will end?