The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

...And the Horse You Rode in On

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The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir seem to have been making an effort to rough up their sweet, twee pop sound over the course of the past few years, and they’ve only turned up the edginess on their third album, 2009’s ...And the Horse You Rode In On. Nowhere is it more evident than on ...And the Horse’s second track, “Stop!,” which boasts the comically bilious first line, “I hope that you catch syphilis and die alone.” It’s the kind of thing worthy of a vaudevillian, cabaret-style band like the Tigerlillies; unfortunately, the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir are not the Tigerlillies. Up until now at least, they've been a sweet indie pop act, something like the Pocketbooks, or maybe even the Math and Physics Club, only with a little more bite; so the black humor and vulgarity that riddles this album is a little confusing, to say the least. It seems like the Choir are striving to make heavily narrative indie pop that’s tender, tough, and funny, something along the lines of Belle and Sebastian.Unfortunately, there’s very little real tenderness here, the toughness often comes off as mean-spirited (or, at times, just plain awkward), and none of it is very funny. Part of the problem has to do with ...And the Horse’s narrative, which revolves around a recently jilted young guy; whether it’s weak writing or vocalist Elia Einhorn’s rough-edged delivery, the main character often comes across as too melodramatic to be likeable. The other problem is that there are a few moments where the Choir’s dark-yet-sugary approach actually works, and these moments only serve to underscore the album’s shortcomings. “Sixteen Is Too Young” and “Something’s Happening” offer an example of ...And the Horse at its bittersweet best – they’re a good balance of sweet vocals, quaint instrumentation, and gently biting lyrics. Sadly, moments like this aren’t enough to make the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir’s third album much more than passable. Newcomers would be well served to stick to the band’s earlier work.

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