What a difference a drummer makes.
This is by no means a slight to Chris Powell, who expertly steered Death Becomes Even the Maiden from its 2005 inception through 2010, when he left to focus on leading The Fishing Journal. His primal poundings proved a great complement and provided heft to Heyward Sims’ technically precise guitar lines, leaving ample room for Eric Greenwood to lay waste with his distorted basslines. But Powell’s replacement, Logan Goldstein, is a strikingly different skinsman, more precise and more technical; his nicotine-fit influence was so pronounced that the band changed its name.
Parlour Tricks is a savvier animal than the Maiden was, augmenting its double-barrel aggression with a dance-rooted rhythmic lilt and a keener sense of nuance. Nothing comes remotely close to the vicious, throat-shredding intensity of the climax of “The Only Thing I Feel for You is the Recoil,” with Greenwood tempering his shrieks for a wry Anglophilic snarl. But the crisp guitar-bass interplay that marked the Maiden remains. Sims bounces off Greenwood’s massive bassline on “Cathedral,” opting for stop-start squeals and palm-muted staccato picking. When Sims gets agile, as on the driving “Neon Lights,” Greenwood backs off; when Sims opts for simplicity, as on “Radio Out,” Greenwood hooks ears with a powerful descending melody.
Goldstein’s drumming is propulsive and balletic, but his influence can most be observed in Medals’ richly detailed arrangements. Auxiliary percussion dots the post-chorus thrashings in “Radio Out.” Toy piano tinklings flit around Sims’ staccato guitar riff in “Atomic Age.” The white space in the spartan “Eleven” is filled with glockenspiels and plinky electronic sequences. It’s a fine pairing of clever and feral elements, and it finds Parlour Tricks in fine form.
But the band has been silent for years. Its last performance came in late 2012; at present, no live dates are scheduled. Sims has put much of his focus into his sleek robo-rock project Devereaux. Goldstein has holed himself up to hone material for his skewed pop outfit Pandercakes. If this is both Parlour Tricks’ debut and swan song, it’s a satisfying, if bittersweet, reward.
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