Wall of Voodoo

Seven Days in Sammystown

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Wall of Voodoo's Seven Days in Sammystown was the work of a radically different band than the one that gave the world "Mexican Radio" and its classic parent album Call of the West just a few years earlier. This was the first album by the post-Stan Ridgway lineup, and featured a new lead singer in Andy Prieboy, as well as a more conventional (but first-rate) drummer named Ned Leukhardt in place of drum-machines-and-pots-and-pans player Joe Nanini. Rounding out the new lineup were returning Call of the West-era members Marc Moreland (guitars) and Chas T. Gray (keyboards), along with Marc's brother Bruce Moreland (bass), who had played with the band in the early years. Unfortunately, by choosing to stick with the band name Wall of Voodoo, certain expectations were set up about how the record would sound -- Nanini and especially Ridgway were very distinctive performers -- and Seven Days in Sammystown often fails to deliver on these expectations. The album does get off to a memorable start with "Far Side of Crazy," a disturbing examination of an unrepentant serial killer (and a song that rather surprisingly became a minor hit in Australia). But after that, it's an uneven ride, as the band either tries too hard to deliver Ridgway-esque pulp-fiction inspired narratives that end up sounding somewhat self-conscious ("This Business of Love," "Big City"), or else Ian Broudie's production becomes a little too slick and ruins the intended dark mood. There are a few highlights, though, particularly Prieboy's frantic rant "Room With a View"; a reverent re-interpretation of the classic miners' lament "Dark as a Dungeon"; and the kitschy but touching "(Don't Spill My) Courage," the story of a paraplegic who refuses to use his religious faith as a crutch. Also, for longtime Wall of Voodoo fans, underappreciated guitarist Marc Moreland is allowed to step to the fore on several cuts and show off his skill at both old-style Western picking and modern electronic dissonance and distortion. If Wall of Voodoo had decided to change their name and reinvent themselves as a "new" band, Seven Days in Sammystown might have been considered their promising, if flawed, debut. Sadly, however, the band decided to stick with the Wall of Voodoo brand name -- meaning that Seven Days in Sammystown wound up as merely a minor artifact in the Wall of Voodoo catalog.

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