Chris Connelly

Night of Your Life

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While it's true that Chris Connelly's contributions to Ministry, the Revolting Cocks, and the Damage Manual have earned him a deserved reputation as a squalid industrial rocker whose love of all things darkly humorous and "tribal" will go down in the history books documenting the era. But in taking his solo recordings as entities unto themselves, one can't help but think he might wish it were otherwise. As early as Whiplash Boychild there were traces of the "other" Chris Connelly: the savvy, vulnerable, and poetically astute singer/songwriter concealed by an image of excess. The softer identity was only given more weight by his late-'90s and early 21st century work with the Bells, Blonde Exodus, and Largo, and was underscored by his starkly sculpted Private Education in 2002. Connelly is often dubbed with the mantle of sounding a lot like early David Bowie -- à la Man Who Sold the World. But the bottom line is that the Thin White Duke should sound as consistently fine as Connelly does! Night of Your Life is an exquisitely crafted collection of off-kilter, elegant, adult pop songs that are presented with grace, elegance, and a wonderfully swaggering nocturnal decadence. Whether Connelly is delving into the androgynous pop of "Too Long in My Mind," with its glimmering guitars strummed into the heart of a mix dotted with single string lines and washes of ambient sound, or popping off with the desperate, edgy, angular slither of "Don't Landslide Away From Me," the effect is the same: a protagonist who seems to be looking out from the end of something, a relationship that is about to crumble or exists only in memory. This elegiac take on love and life and the scenics surrounding them -- Connelly wonderfully captures atmospheric details -- track further on the title track with its gorgeously layered backing male chorus (all voices are his own), as well as on the jagged Baroque new wave of "Stella (Stand Up for Your Man)." The pastoral glissando in "Glass Rose" stands in stark contrast where the shambolic protagonist holds his grief-laden view at a cool distance. In the sprightly whistling jaunt of "Nicola 6," Connelly offers a portrait of a woman who moves "much too fast to wait for high hells to collapse." It's a portrait of a femme fatale who is so wildly out of control, one can only love her for her lack of control. The distorted electric guitars entwined with ringing bells in "Roulettescape" offer an urgent, insistent view of a world-ending vision. But "Respond to Beauty" stands in sharp contrast, with its spacious use of guitars and Connelly's beautiful skewed croon making a stand in the heart of chaos, wishing to "stand for beauty like its name was never changed." And while two more -- quite beautiful -- tracks remain, it is here that Connelly splits the night wide open, etches a line on the concrete, and hopes to draw down the moon to fill the heartbreak, the emptiness left by decadence and illusory pleasure, and replace it with a single moment of possibility, where everything isn't already in ruins. This is why, simply, that recordings like this one mark Connelly apart from his other musical personas and make the listener look more critically and appreciatively at his work as a songwriter. And as fine as Night of Your Life is, it also makes one wonder what heights Connelly might scale aesthetically and poetically if he were able to make his living by pursuing this path exclusively.

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