On their debut effort, the Gilded Palace of Sin make no effort to hide their love for a general post-Lee Hazlewood/Nick Cave/PJ Harvey country/theatrical/goth vibe from the get-go -- not for nothing is the band signed to Barry Adamson's Central Control label or named after a Flying Burrito Brothers album, after all. That said, the band are an almost classic example of one element working incredibly well and another almost tripping it up as it goes. What works is the group's collective ear for those previously mentioned sounds and styles, which the trio plays excellently throughout. Each member of the trio is credited with a variety of instruments, and both the intricacy and power of each song is almost breathtaking, from the start of the opening song "For When We Forget" through to the conclusion. At their quietest, they easily call up the mythic image of a just-about-to-close late-night jazz bar -- or maybe more appropriately, an isolated saloon -- while at their most brawling, as on "Vony and the Plynths" and "Rosa Salvaje," they work within the vein of their predecessors with vivid results. What makes the album less of a success than it should be, though, lies with Pete Plythian's singing -- in aiming for a rough, big but grizzled air in his approach, and a ruined heroism that's perfectly appropriate for the music as intended, he often ends up sounding cartoonish. Given some of his obvious sources of general reference -- Nick Cave again springs to mind -- such a result isn't surprising per se, but it makes listening to otherwise stellar songs like "Mean Old Jack" a chore. He does have an ear for a good line or two along the way, though the bleak delivery of "Let's strap on a bomb and blow ourselves to heaven" in "Bones of the Saints," especially given the time period it was recorded and released in, is a suddenly powerful, unsettled moment.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett