The Handsome Family

Last Days of Wonder

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The Handsome Family (Rennie and Brett Sparks) can't ever seem to find it in them to pair lyrics like "When automatic sinks in airports no longer see your hands/Your great journey has begun" with music that reflects their desperate urban majesty. Last Days of Wonder, their seventh full-length collection of Midwest gothic country songs, does push the envelope a tad further than their previous six releases, as Brett has invented a myriad of new ways to manipulate his trusty home computer into a limitless extension of his own creativity, but even a musical saw can lose its backwoods luster when it's being hauled on the caboose of a three-chord train to midtempo Americanaville. That said, the Handsome Family's adherence to highly literate contemporary heartbreak within an old-timey framework is what made them stand out from the crowded sea of young Gram Parsons converts in the first place -- actually, they've always seemed more late-period Johnny Cash than Parsons -- so they've more than earned the right to rest on their laurels a bit, but one can't help but think that just a little bit more spice might have elevated all of these beautiful ideas out of the trappings of their now painfully insular song structures.

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