Uneasy Listening, Vol. 1

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While it's true that H.I.M. (His Infernal Majesty) have a slew of special editions, Europe-only releases, singles, EPs, Japan-only tracks, etc., they all have their perverse charm. Uneasy Listening, Vol. 1 is another such collection, but it's not a repackaging of one album or another. This is a bona fide rarities collection. It contains remixes, live cuts, acoustic versions, dubs, and versions of cuts with and without strings -- many previously unreleased in any form. This is a band with an absolutely fanatical following of mainly young people who are caught in the goth web. Good for them, actually; the reason H.I.M. inspire loyalty in so many is because the songs themselves -- at least most of them -- have great melancholy pop hooks and hearing them in this way is a fine way of discerning that. Check the acoustic version of "Funeral of Hearts," with its lilt and absolutely naked vocal. Then there's "Close to the Flame" from The Rappula Tapes, with its aching, gorgeous guitars and skeletal beat. The big heavy AOR mix of "When Love and Death Embrace" could have been sung by Morrissey if he fronted a metal band. And on it goes. For fans, this is essential; for the uninitiated (or those afraid to admit liking this band), this is a new, darkly sweet collection of lyrics so utterly transgressive that they are as poisonous as nightshade or belladonna, and melodies so completely infectious that they bring out the warped teenager or secretly broken adult in anyone who gives them a chance. (Let's put it this way, if Sam Phillips had recorded this material, or Bright Eyes, or Patty Griffin, this record would have been called a masterpiece of vulnerability, but since it's these Euro kids, it's shock value music or overly emotive teen balladry that can be dismissed.) Decadent? Excessive? Possibly sick? Yeah -- but so romantically charged and drenched in ragged beauty that it's nearly irresistible.

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