Sir – The Night I Met My Second Wife

The Night I Met My Second Wife

Like a scratchy reel of forgotten black and white film you come across in your attic while throwing things out, Sir’s The Night I Met My Second Wife is a find worth putting to the side and holding onto. Everything here, from the full sounds to the woozy cover photo to the fantastic titles and lyrical images, make this album stand out in a pile. While far from fun, it grows more revealing and more engaging with each listen.
It’s a fully realized work that is far more than the sum of its parts. Sleepy guitars, buzzy, droning synths, and organs form the foundation for the dreaming, gothic vocals. Keyboardist Jesse Jackson Sheperd is like a low Ray Manzarek. His choice of organ sounds lends some of the songs a creepy, cabaret feel that bumps against the gloomy overall mood. He and guitarist/ vocalist Elizabeth Downey are like 50’s show-tune writers from hell. Downey’s voice is close to Hope Sandoval’s, but her slurred, self-assured come-ons are descended from Deborah Harry. It’s a really appealing mix, and, when it works, it works really well.
The lyrics are short and full of strong words and adjectives; they don’t say much, but everything they do say has value. They range from short, repeated phrases (“I’m going to pull you under”) to powerfully suggestive lines (“You were standing on the sideline commanding a good view of the big top, as it went up you know the show never stops, it’s always bright lights, new heights, old sights, pale tights. But I’ll be leaving one day” from “Sunny Safari”). At other times, they explore inverted, double meanings; sometimes explicitly (“You’re just too good to be true, to me” from “Too Good”) and at other times implied (“You wonder why I’m always passed out on the floor, why I always slur my words” from “Drunk on Love”).
The music doesn’t sound directly derivative of any one band or genre; instead it sits comfortably with its influences. This is going to help keep it from sounding dated. It’s one of those albums that sounds like it fell out of the sky, like REM’s best albums. They’re almost like a photo negative of Everything But the Girl. Some of the same aspects that make that group so good are at work here, but completely inverted. The hope for romance, reconciliation, and true connection is buried under the disappointment and heartbreak that inform the whole album. While the music at times suggests they’re wallowing in it, the lyrics suggest they’re trying to grow. It’s a well-made, well thought-out, worthwhile piece of work from start to end and worth checking out.