Alternative rock noir chanteuse Eleni Mandell exudes a nocturnal, beat-poet, wry, avant-garde veneer on Snakebite, an alluring collection of intimate torch songs, jazzy arrangements, and theatrical wordplay. Akin to Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napilitano, Tom Waits, and Rickie Lee Jones, Eleni Mandell's songs are filled with dark characters enmeshed in ominous circumstances. Abetted by a dexterous coffee-house boheme rhythm section of Sheldon Gomberg on upright bass and drummer Danny Frankel, Mandell casts an eerie spell via her fragile melodies, slippery rhythm guitar phrasing, and varying tempo. The sophisticated cabaret rendering of "I Believe in Spring" is worthy of a Tony Bennett or Bobby Short interpretation, and the title track, which details love gone awry with the "promise to kiss me with a snake bite" is highly cinematic by way of Mandell's sweeping cries of passion and misplaced ecstasy. Closing the disc with "Madhouse," the beleaguered singer, rails out at liars and schemers in a bawdy, barroom stream of conscious diatribe that corroborates the old proverb that misery loves company, and vice versa. Intriguing and street-smart, Snakebite is a record that will always be relevant and entertaining.
by Tom Semioli