Matt Elliott's second solo CD, even more than his first, finds him moving further away from the feedback-and-beats trademarks of the Third Eye Foundation, though to be sure his path was already marked out by the concluding years of that incarnation. Living up to not only the title but the striking cover image -- a drawing of Elliott as a louche 19th century barfly, cigarette in hand -- Drinking Songs is not far removed from the kind of musical and psychic landscapes of early the Black Heart Procession or the Tindersticks at its most restrained. Guitars are either acoustic or, if anything, barely electric; instead piano and keyboards, for the most part, take the melodic fore, while drums as such aren't audible at all. But like Elliott's work in general the emphasis is not on lyrics for the most part -- what songs have them, like "The Guilty Party," feature them as distanced, very softly sung chorales, the type of drinking singalong when all at the bar are at their most reflective and melancholic. "What's Wrong" features slightly louder singing at points, but again compared to most they're barely there. If nothing else Elliott's gift for unusual but memorable song titles remains strong -- there's the closing "The Maid We Messed," a nod back to his first solo album (in a possibly related note, it's also the only song that sounds entirely like his previous work), but even better is "What the Fuck Am I Doing on This Battlefield?" Yet perhaps the most striking, heartbreaking song is "The Kursk," named after the Russian submarine that suffered a tragic accident, killing all onboard. The musique concrete rush of claustrophobic sound which starts the song -- grinding mechanisms, dank metallic noises -- serves as backdrop for guitar and strings, plus, as the song continues, an increasingly chilling, wordless mass chorus, portraits of souls going to an early grave.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett