A true "Evilsponge" record, this. A record that makes no sense whatsoever on paper, but which surprises, amuses, and delights with successive plays. This is odd, quirky Americana with a twist, and that twist is an unexpected infusion of East Europe. There's moonshine in them thar hills, but it's Vodka and not Whisky that these hillbillies are distilling.
I told you it didn't make sense…on paper.
The opening Night Train is merely clever in that the drum rhythm mimics the motion of a railroad ride. It all gets rather excellent with The Siren Song. Here Sasha Papadin's vocal delivery finds its mark. Papadin's cadences are tired yelps and sighs of apathy. It shouldn't work. Maybe it works because it shouldn't work?
The Terrible Fields is a Balkan take on The Stranglers' Golden Brown - a gypsy carousel waltz with a feverish haze. Things become jazzier on the hi-hat propelled Here It Is, but it is on Long Cold Winter where the band really hit their straps. This is a true East meets West barn dance. It's like the Russians have taken over Tulsa, but just what gives this music its East European slant is difficult to pin down. The accordion and mandolin add to the flavour certainly, but these could just as easily be of Gallic origin.
In my mind, The Val Papadins would make the perfect wedding band. (An indication perhaps, of why I remain unmarried.) Certainly, the handclaps and "black crows" of the standout track One Blue Moon And a Grave are probably more suited to a funeral march in minds of most right-thinking folk. I beg to differ. I love this. I'd dance to these maniacal "la la la's" and ghostly piano twinkle.
The climax is The Beast and it's damn fine. The band strum and I yearn for steel pedal twang. Then suddenly a Muscovite chant breaks out. Why? Only they know, but Goddammit it works. Their gigs must be tremendous fun.
Overall the album is intermittently good and wonderful. There aren't quite enough classic tracks to bestow greatness on The Val Papadins…yet. However, perspective please. This is their debut full length and I hope they make another. I really do.
Cossack campfires, sea shanties, and bar brawls. This is a true original.