Sunday, February 24, 2008

Album and Concert Review: Evangelicals, The Evening Descends

“Strange things keep happenin’ all around my head!” This lyric, shouted frantically by Evangelicals’ front man Josh Jones on “Bellawood” gives one a taste of what Evangelicals’ second album The Evening Descends is all about. An indie rock band from Norman, Oklahoma, Evangelicals deliver a trippy, dense, and ultimately satisfying experience with The Evening Descends.

The Evening Descends, available on label Dead Oceans, is a sonically diverse album, tossing together synthesizers, awesome guitar parts, and spacey vocals for a unique psychedelic sound. The album has a cohesive flow to it, each song segueing into the next, giving it the feel of a journey into wild dreams, nightmares, and insanity. Taking a page from Pixies, Evangelicals utilize dynamic contrast in many of their songs, snapping from full-bore rocking out to quiet vocal parts in the blink of an eye. Just as a song cannot get any more intense, the instruments rescind, leaving only Josh Jones’ haunting voice riding on top of a lone synth or guitar, crying out in the empty space before the band kicks back in.

“Skeleton Man” is the excellent first single off of The Evening Descends. Featuring a bouncy baseline, “Skeleton Man” descends into a maze of noise after the first verse, before launching into a beautiful section with ghostly backing vocals. Jones proclaims, “I once was a skeleton”, laughing maniacally into the microphone. Another highlight from the album is “Midnight Vignette”, with its multi-tracked vocals and prominent guitar evoking a creepier version of Queen. Currently a music video is out for “Midnight Vignette”, mirroring the song’s eerie vibe with horror movie visuals. “Bellawood” kicks off with a sample of a tense man saying, “They’re ganging up on me. What’ll I do?” The song then proceeds into crazy haunted house rock, complete with quavering vocals and ghoulish oohs. The song ends with Jones yelping over and over, “Strange things keep happenin’ all around my head.” Without a weak track on the album, Evangelicals’ The Evening Descends makes for engrossing listening as well as intriguing road trip music.

Not only are Evangelicals superb in the studio, they also excel in their live show. Clint and I had the opportunity to see them play down at Mojo’s down in Columbia with Penny Marvel and Gentleman Auction House. This was Evangelicals’ first show on their tour to promote The Evening Descends. Evangelicals didn’t start their set until nearly midnight, as the previous two bands were running late. Josh Jones came onstage wearing a sequined cape and a velvet lampshade on his head. Halfway into their first song “Midnight Vignette”, Jones shed both the cape and the lampshade. About a minute into the second song, the drummer broke his kick-drum, causing a brief lull in the concert. Luckily, Gentleman Auction House came to the rescue with a fresh drum and the concert continued. Evangelicals stuck mainly to songs off of The Evening Descends, their energy and enthusiasm infecting the crowd that stuck around late to see them. During a few songs, Evangelicals fired up a smoke machine, casting the band in a trippy haze, the smoke sliced apart by Mojo’s modest lighting system. Evangelicals closed with “Skeleton Man”, an excellent end to a great concert.

Evangelicals’ The Evening Descends is a spectacular sophomore effort. Evangelicals is currently on a tour spanning many areas of the United States. You can check out the individual dates on their MySpace. Evangelicals is playing at the Billiken Club at St. Louis University on March 8th with Headlights and Catfish Haven, two other first-rate bands.

I give The Evening Descends a handlebar moustache. (5 out of 5)

Evangelicals- "Skeleton Man"
Evangelicals- "Bellawood"

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