It may be the home of Elvis Presley and Sun Records, but there is very little about the eponymous debut album by Memphis' the Satyrs that hints at rock & roll's roots. Instead, the band of 20-year-olds opts for music far more cuttingly metropolitan, showing a surprising penchant for cultured, nearly continental sophistication and gorgeous, affected mysticism. The comparisons to both the Doors and the Velvet Underground are encapsulated in the opening "This Song Is Blue," epic and ominous with psychedelically inclined guitar strumming. Jason Paxton has a penchant for Jim Morrison's dark melodrama (and his menacing voice) while the music drones and swoops, envelops and stutters, agitates and rumbles toward the unseen edge of rock music just as "Sister Ray" or "The End" did before it. "With No Light" perhaps could draw the strongest comparisons to the Doors in part because of its trippy Ray Manzarek-aping Hammond line, but the Satyrs stake out their own ground and invent a musical identity that is every bit as mysterious and intriguing as their influences. A healthy portion of the guitar lines on the album derive straight from the heady opium haze of Middle Eastern and Indian music as if making an effort at finding the sacredly hedonistic side of transcendence in songs such as "Fate and the Golden Wind" and "We Are One." The band shows both a seedy seductiveness of tantric proportions and a propensity for emotive speculation in an effort at breaking on through to the other side, whether it is a result of "Dying Away" (with its Morrissey levels of misery and self-loathing) or hitting upon a more humanly ethereal and spiritual path. "Creator" is full of questions and metaphysical contemplation and confusion, but there is also something affectionate and hopeful about the childlike way the questions are posed and the ultimate refusal to trip over a specific answer. The haunting, deep-voiced balladry of Jacques Brel and Kurt Weill, not to mention Tindersticks, surfaces at frequent points throughout the album, particularly on the trembling "With You" and the almost-classical instrumental piano ode "Tribute to the Great Joseph Carey Merrick." At certain moments, Satyrs reaches almost operatic levels of theatricality. It makes for a stimulating, haunting debut.
The Satyrs Review
by Stanton Swihart