Sally Barry Review – “Calm Elegance”


(CD on Green Monkey)

While they may stem from a punk, noise and metal background, former Honeymoon Killers’ drummer Barry and guitarists Mark Brunke and Ruth Davidson (who doubles on cello embellishment) bring a calm elegance to these nearly two dozen tracks, which Brunke originally composed between 20 and 35 years ago. ‘Sunbleached’ suits rainy day navelgazing, with Barry’s measured vocals weaving languorous smoke rings around Davidson’s cello melodies (did I mention they’re also classical music dropouts?) But tracks like ‘Come In Electronica’, ‘Loving My Disease’, ‘Wasted Time’, ‘Love Bit Her Nest’, and ‘Erin’ serve to exorcise Brunke’s personal demons, including his mother’s heroin overdose in 1997. Punk’s anger and angst return to the surface, feeding Brunke’s tales of “love, loss, marriages, divorces, birth, physical and mental disease, and real and spiritual death… everything that’s happened in the intervening 20 years”, including the dissolution of his relationship with Barry.

     The stripped-down bedsit vibe of ‘Ley Lines’, ‘Saturnine Mine’, et. al. border on No Depression, no-fi home recordings (particularly ‘Requiem and Famine’), but that’s another part of the album’s alluring charm. Brunke’s lyrical ruminations are easily identifiable by anyone’s who suffered tragic loss, loneliness, and emptiness. The horrible spate of recent suicides (musical and otherwise) attest to something going wrong with how people are reacting to society’s ills. Barry & Co. sadly remind us that things haven’t improved much over the last three decades, but this cathartic experience may help you get through rough times the way it seems to have successfully helped them navigate life’s unexpected digressions. While 22 tracks of relentlessly gloomy introspective soul searching wears thin and occasionally veers into a monotonous drone of self-pity, music has been known to sooth the savage breast, and we can all use a comforting voice of “been there, done that” recognition to deal with our own demons.

(Jeff Penczak)

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