For their second album, the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir have forsaken their pop aspirations for a darker, more cynical sound with echoes of the British new wave bands of the late '70s and lyrics that deal with the horrors of modern life. Songs about alienation, obsession, terror, disease, drugs and an epic about a kid who gets tortured by his classmates because he's different are the bill of faire, but if your taste is more for the grim than the gaudy, you'll probably sit down and eagerly gobble up these nine gloomy entrées. The Yard's core of Ellen O'Hayer (cello, bass, vocals); Elia Einhorn (organ, guitar); Sam Koentopp (drums, vocals) and Matthew Kerstein (guitar, vocals) are augmented by 15 members of the Bloodshot roster including Sally Timms, Kelly Hogan, and producer Mark Yoshizumi. "Aspidistra" looks back unapologetically on a youth of drug taking and run-ins with the police, with a bass driven backing track that sounds a bit like the Buzzcocks at their most melodic. "In Hospital" is a song for a dead friend. O'Hayer's fragile vocal and the minimal backing of a tack piano give the tune a haunted, hopeless feeling. "I Never Thought I Could Feel This Way for a Boy" is a beautiful song about coming out, although the protagonist of the tune doesn't know quite what to feel about his love for another boy. Musically it's bright and poppy, lifted up by syncopated handclaps and O'Hayer's mellow cello. "Everything You Paid For" closes the disc with a harrowing tale of a young boy coping with the daily humiliations handed out by the local gang of bullies. The music has a gospel feel accented by a churchy duo of piano and organ. O'Hayer's vocal is augmented by an actual choir of backing voices. The song's ambivalent ending -- did the boy kill himself or finally find a supportive peer group? -- adds to its power. The coda, the sound of the belabored breathing of someone fighting back tears, and a faintly heard church organ bring the song and the album to a chilling close.
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AllMusic Review by J. Poet