Smile Politely

Give Death a chance

Ever wish that Cursive never lost their cellist? And that zombie Johnny Cash could crawl onstage and sing them whiskey-soaked saloon tunes? In lieu of an Easter miracle, Murder By Death may be your best bet.

Touring out their latest, Good Morning, Magpie, for the better half of a year, Murder By Death must be quite tight. Both euphemistically and rhythmically. The record finds them tightening their mainstream-radio chops while sincerely developing songcraft that luckily has been interesting and entertaining to watch develop over the past decade. Certainly, lost is the thrashiness of Like The Exorcist, But With More Breakdancing, yet traces remain of youthful grit, a fiery passion tempered with years of experience. Most notably, age has given Adam Turla’s voice a timbre not unlike the western gothic Americana greats he’s chased and flanked since “I’m Afraid of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe.” Since their first record released on the once-great, once-embarrassing, Vagrant Records, they have explored the more accessible bits of their aesthetic, cleaning up and cutting no production corners. For your listening pleasure, I submit the ultimate track from Red of Tooth and Claw:

I first saw Murder By Death at the Emerson Theater in Indianapolis when they opened for Braid on their reunion tour with Minus the Bear and my hometown heroes Mock Orange. Two striking memories stuck with me: 1) it was their keyboardist’s last show with them, and as the band took the stage Adam made a poignant speech over a raised glass, recounting fond memories, and wishing him well in the future. He then realized that the keyboardist was not there, and said he was probably down the street getting drunk, so fuck him and then they ripped into their set. 2) Their cellist exudes sexuality. Do me the favor of catching their show and then try to tell me I’m wrong. Just you try.

Murder By Death plays at 9 p.m. at The HighDive tomorrow night.  New Ruins and Grandkids open. Doors at 7 p.m.

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