Suffering and the Hideous Thieves

Rats in Heaven

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    6
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AllMusic Review by

What's this -- the Tom Waits Concert Choir? No, it's just the notorious Seattle fixture Jeff Suffering and his cohorts, taking an old gospel song and turning it into a cross between a queasy barroom ballad and a louche cabaret torch song. And that's just what happens in the first minute of this album; the rest alternates between a sort of jazzy film-noir alt rock ("Burning World") and a more straightforward guitar-based alt rock ("Her Blood," "There's Nothing More Beautiful Than Loving You"), much of it sprinkled with fairly subtle religious language -- though there's nothing very subtle about the fact that the album opens with gospel standards "There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood" and ends with "Amazing Grace." Throughout the program, Suffering works hard to maintain an air of weirdness, maintaining a delicate balance between charming idiosyncrasy and simple chaos. When he teeters to one side, its usually in the direction of self-indulgent twaddle and he ends up sounding like a loopier version of Nick Cave. But as long as his balance holds, you get nice surprises like the string arrangement on "Potter's Field" and the disarmingly straight take on "Amazing Grace" that ends the program. Recommended with only minor reservations.

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