One thing the Madding Crowd is unlikely to be accused of is having a sunny, optimistic outlook. Clearly influenced by Depeche Mode as well as the goth-rock of the late 1980s, this promising yet obscure trio favors eerie, synthesizer-laden pop-rock with consistently bleak and gloomy lyrics. "Kiss of Death," "Christening Walk," "Defenseless" and other songs on Urgent Times find the California band taking a cold, hard look at the world around them, and the things that stand out in their mind are suffering, anguish, hate and despair. And yet, it would be inaccurate to say that the Crowd is entirely without hope -- on "The Vision" and "Stand Up," they argue that things could change if people really set out to make them. This riveting CD sounds very British, but in fact, Urgent Times was recorded in Emeryville, CA. It's unfortunate that an album this strong is so little-known.
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