After an unbelievably ill-conceived pairing with the metalheaded Roadrunner label for their 1998 debut EP and their stunning 1999 full-length debut, Boston's premier indie-mopesters the Sheila Divine released Where Have My Countrymen Gone through the Co-Op Pop imprint. As with 1999's New Parade, the thing that makes the Sheila Divine so spectacular is their penchant for creating melodies that soar with singular guitar work that is at once beautiful and brutal, especially when paired with Aaron Perrino's staggeringly rich vocals. Perrino draws heavily from Morrissey, to be sure, but never comes across sounding like a mere imitation; it's much more like he is possessed by the same overpowering and melancholy muse. The key word in describing the Sheila Divine is intensity. Countrymen forgoes some of the more straightforward alt-rockisms of New Parade in order to delve more freely into the group's more arty, experimental side hinted at on previous numbers like "Spacemilk." Moody atmospherics play a big role in songs like the Radiohead-meets-Tindersticks "Wanting Is Wasted" and "Some Kind of Home," but ultimately it is numbers like "Sideways" and "Ostrichs" that build steam until they explode into huge choruses that prove to be the best and most memorable of the lot. Something about the band's sound often calls to mind the mood-setting, intensity-building songs that accompanied montages in '80s teen movies that featured the group of underdog athletes or students preparing for the big game, or the big dance, as was so often the case. It's the inseparable combination of desperation and determination -- hopeless romanticism. Although the album gained little airplay (unlike Parade's "Hum," which was a modest hit), oddly enough the song "Sideways" did appear in several episodes of the ABC soap opera One Life to Live. However, the song wasn't performed by the Sheila Divine on the series; it was "performed" by the show's fictional band, Midnight Logic. Unfortunately, Where Have My Countrymen Gone would prove to be the Sheila Divine's final LP. An EP, Secret Society, came out just prior to the band's breakup in early 2003. Although it is a shame that the band didn't continue on, the good news is that the catalog they left behind is a striking musical statement that should stand the test of time nearly as well as the releases of their seeming idols like the Smiths.
AllMusic Review by Karen E. Graves