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.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger