If there was even the tiniest bit of comfort to be wrung from Johnny Dowd's singularly disturbing debut album, Wrong Side of Memphis, it was that the record's stark, homespun tales of murder, misery, and malice seemed light years removed from reality, evoking a backwoods dementia so completely over the top it often threatened to veer into the ridiculous. Pictures from Life's Other Side ups the ante considerably: Complete with full-band backing, crisp production, and a broader musical spectrum, the effect is much more chilling, as within this more conventional framework, Dowd's obsessions manifest themselves in new and sinister ways, cloaking his fixations and fetishes behind the subterfuge of a suspiciously listenable blend of country, blues, and pop. Where Wrong Side of Memphis immediately revealed itself as the ravings of a madman, Pictures from Life's Other Side is much sneakier -- at first glance, "Hope You Don't Mind" appears to be a heart-wrenching ballad of unrequited love, but on closer inspection the object of the middle-aged Dowd's affection is a schoolgirl; likewise, the hauntingly atmospheric "No Woman's Flesh But Hers" is a testament to undying love, in this case a husband's pledge to his comatose wife. Sick, twisted, and undeniably compelling, Pictures from Life's Other Side delivers where countless shock rock and gangsta rap records fall short, capturing a musical vision that's genuinely disquieting.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny