Desert City Soundtrack – Perfect Addiction

Desert City Soundtrack
Perfect Addiction

At one time, Desert City Soundtrack was easily the most aggressive band on Deep Elm’s roster. By combining somber elements of bands like The Black Heart Procession with post-hardcore throat-shredding not unlike Portraits of Past or early Fugazi, it was a destructive tour de force to be reckoned with. If you ever caught the band live, you really know what I’m talking about. With the release of Perfect Addiction, all of that is about to change. After an unfortunate but amicable departure, former drummer Caitlin Love has been replaced with Brian “Nightdog” Wright, thus changing the dynamic of the band but not rendering it any less vibrant. In a way, the new Desert City Soundtrack is even more dramatic than ever before.

Perfect Addiction finds the band reigning in its hardcore elements and strengthening its songwriting chops. This is the sound of a more mature Desert City Soundtrack, one that owes more debt to bands like Codeine or Palace than Portraits of Past. Gone are the scream-a-rific climaxes of earlier songs such as “What to Do in Case of Fire” or “These Games We Play.” Instead, what is left is more similar to songs like “Casket” or “My Hell” from Funeral Car. Wright’s drumming keeps the pace nice and slow for the entirety of Perfect Addiction, although the record isn’t without some incredibly powerful moments. Cory Gray’s piano leads the band with some incredible riffs that will leave your jaw ready to be scraped off the pavement. Matt Carillo’s guitars are at times lush, providing the perfect bed for Gray’s piano to really shine; at other times they are wiry and tense, only exploding when necessary for just the right effect.

The opening piano lines of “Last Night’s Floor” don’t sound all that different from what we’ve come to expect from the DCS crew. Carillo and Gray’s sleepy vocals act as tour guides through a dysfunctional relationship. Still, the guitars never raise above a low hum, and the song eases its way down the old dirt road to track number two like horses drawing a carriage containing dead bodies to a grave. “Let’s Throw Knives” takes the passoff and marches forward with a salsa dancestep led gracefully by Cory’s piano and Matt’s plea’s of “I don’t know if I can take this anymore, pull your finger off the trigger.”

“Playing the Martyr” is one of the only real “rock” songs on the record. In a fashion similar to Three Mile Pilot’s Another Desert, Another Sea, the song breaks into a shouted chorus but never the blood-curdling howl heard on earlier tracks like “Murder Hearts.” The acoustic guitar and piano are swathed in a fuzzy blanket of electric guitar that adds just the right amount of volume to the equation. What follows is even more of a eulogy to the old Desert City Soundtrack, as “No Signal” finds the band burying the only screamed vocals on the record under a ton of white noise and incredibly deft drumming.

“Whatever the Cost” and “Batteries” are possibly two of the album’s best songs, and they have been carefully placed side by side for maximum effect. The former is a lament over a claustrophobic argument between two lovers, while “Batteries” is a lonely piano ballad that would put most other bands to shame with the sheer brilliance of its haunting melody. “Mothball Fleet (Counterattack)” is the crowning jewel in this already splendid record. During the chorus when Carillo and Gray sing “my friends say I’m lashing to the mast of this sinking ship,” the words themselves feel weighted by the dread of an impending doom. “Watering Hole” takes the record to its absolute lowest, not in terms of quality because the song is fucking great, but in terms of pace and volume. Matt Carillo sings about meeting an ex over drinks and trying to forget their pasts.

“The Dining Dead” closes Perfect Addiction with a page straight from Funeral Car. The opening statement “Sit back in my hell,” is directly linked to Funeral Car‘s opening track, entitled, perfectly enough, “My Hell.” The song swings wide with a jaunty rhythm that seems tailor made for the end of this tale. By the finale of the song, however, Desert City Soundtrack has taken us back around to the starting point. The tempo slows to a crawl as the guys sing “if you need a friend or a place to call, call on me.”

Perfect Addiction seems poised to make this statement come true, as you’ll be calling on it over and over again from the shelves of your record collection. In summary what we have on our hands here is a genuine contender for album of the year. Desert City Soundtrack has refined and redefined its sound by honing in on some unreal songwriting skills and putting its post-hardcore roots to bed. Perfect Addiction delivers another morbidly beautiful gem from this Portland, OR band.