Velvet Hammer

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Velvet Hammer is one of the saddest, most heartbreaking records you will ever hear. It's soaked in tears and alcohol, punctuated with bruises and frostbitten fingers. Whether the songs of fractured relationships within are of romantic or familial nature, they sting with equally biting resonance. Marcy Mays is a mediator between mother and child on "Your Mother Wants to Know": "She wants you to like her so try to forget it/ And she's sorry for all the years and what happened to you when you were a kid." In "Take a Swing," she confronts an angered lover: "If you get me started, there's no telling what I'll do." She's stuck in an un-trusting rut in "Prize": "I get flowers/ I get suspicious, too." Throughout Velvet Hammer, the protagonist is at the end of her rope, struggling to find peace of mind amidst inner and outer turmoil. Though still sounding ragged and a little out of place in the studio, Steve Albini's raw engineering style is tailor-made for the band, especially for this stark material. New drummer Dana Marshall adds a creative instrumental spark, and it seems to have re-fueled his bandmates' creative juices. The closest touchstones with Velvet Hammer have to be American Music Club's Everclear and Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures, two other records that bleed with despair and grim reality. It's a blues record from the Midwest and an undeniable diamond in the rough, an unheard indie rock classic.

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