The parentheses give the game away. Calling an album Everybody’s Going To Hell strikes an ominous tone. Adding the disclaimer But You And Me sweetens the pill and undermines any air of foreboding.
That’s what’s happened here. The Atlanta, Georgia four piece bill themselves as “Southern Gothic rock ‘n’ roll, based on fire and brimstone,” but this is way cleaner cut than that. No-one’s damned here. Guitars don’t screech. Drums don’t pound. It’s the sound of the ever-so-slightly-rebellious band from a teen drama playing the school prom. It rocks, but gently.
Vocalist/guitarist Nikki Speake’s clear-as-crystal vocals call to mind Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and her harmonies with bassist Anna Kramer provide a folksy twist, like The Go-Gos gone country. From the title track girl-group “sha-la-la”s onwards, it’s fairly straightforward.
Howl With Me is a murder ballad, blunted of any power by the narrator’s lacklustre apology: “I’m so sorry for what I’ve done / your life is over, now mine has just begun”. Love Me Tender (Love Me Black And Blue) is a bluesy country rocker that takes the same simplistic yin and yang approach: “I’ve been good and I’ve been bad, so everything’s the same.” In fact, there’s triteness right through the lyrics: “Hey now, I don’t need another love song” (Mica Hill), “I cannot save you, can’t say that I could blame you” (Phantom Caller), “Don’t worry honey, I’ve saved all my money” (Motor Run)
In the credit column, They’ve Never Walked Through Shadows is a sweet near a capella, Speake and Kramer harmony singing to a martial beat, while Mamas Should Know is the most powerful moment, Speake lamenting the early death of her mother, giving her most emotive vocal performance as she lists all the things her mama should have taught her: “What to reap, what to sow… how to love, how to cry”.
None of this really benefits from the echoey, lo-fi, one-take-in-a-barn production. It gives a hint of 60s garage rock or early REM to proceedings, but rather than coming across raw and guileless, it feels contrived. The purity of the vocals demand something crisper, not artificial rough edges.
Perhaps some of the appeal is lost mid-Atlantic. From these shores, it reads like a nice enough Bob Harris Country band reaching for a darker schtick and not really finding it.