Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  Reconstructive Surgery  
  Martyr & Pistol  
Release Date:
  (late) 2002  
Reviewed by:

Music that contradicts itself always fascinates me. I love a band that surprises by mixing genres, lyrics, and sounds to reinterpret moods and meanings. Weird musical stylings, like happy hardcore bands, neurotic bangly pop groups, and the soft teeth-gnashing of good Goth keep my interest for years because of the complex use of sound and language. Martyr and Pistol have always struck me as a group who exemplify such a musical juxtaposition because they overlay the contradictions of classic Goth with symphonic cello, further reinterpreting a standard sub-culture of independent music.

Martyr and Pistol’s second album, Reconstructive Surgery, delves even deeper into that tradition of Goth while still reminding me of chamber music and classical concertos. The first track, Becky, sounds much like the band’s first album: cello-heavy music best served on a gloomy rainy day or perhaps at a swank art gallery. Kera Schaley’s sweet mellow voice may even lull the listener into a state of contemplation or meditation. But, immediately on the second song, the title track, the cello turns from a soothing hum to a fierce dark howl, piercing the air with faster, harder, angrier tones of unrequited love. Schaley’s voice remains steady, dark, even whisper-like, but her words bespeak fits of rage and despair -- echoing Goth ancestors like Joy Division and Bauhaus. Indeed, rarely have I heard a female lead carry off the contradictory theme of serenity and anger with so much exactitude.

Reconstructive Surgery hits its high points in the songs that emphasize this Goth influence. Jealous integrates bouncy cello notes with focused hostile lyrics of hatred and bitterness, and its chorus closely resembles and reinterprets Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. Wasted Life is another strong piece highlighting Schaley’s soothing voice and melodies while featuring manic, desperate lyrics.

The greatest drawback of this album is not its songwriting but its recording, particularly on some of the more powered up works like the title track. Furthermore, songs like Choke require a range of mixing from delicate chant-like verses to more aggressive powered-up choruses. Schaley’s voice is sadly understated throughout the album as well, often getting muffled and lost in the mixing shuffle. Self-released, the sound is understandably a poor representation of the crisp compositions and booming bass that the cello-electric combination carries out onstage. As with many “rock” bands that include unusual string instruments, Martyr and Pistol’s music is very difficult to mix properly without sounding like “sonic mud,” to borrow a phrase coined by a fellow minion. Reconstructive Surgery is a fine work that deserves serious re-mastering, a sonic reconstruction of its own.

Related Links:

Martyr and Pistol rocking tha house as they open for Mission of Burma.


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.