Sunday, March 26, 2023

The Scarlet Goodbye: “Hope’s Eternal” (2023) CD Review

The Scarlet Goodbye is a Minnesota band led by the duo of Daniel Murphy and Jeff Arundel. Those names are probably familiar to you. Daniel Murphy was the co-founder of Soul Asylum and a member of Golden Smog. Jeff Arundel is a singer and songwriter who has released several solo albums. Their styles and sounds might seem different, but they work so well together. As The Scarlet Goodbye, they released a few singles, and have now put out their first full-length album, Hope’s Eternal. On this album, both Murphy and Arundel provide vocals, play guitar and play piano. In addition, Jeff Arundel plays keyboards and percussion. They are joined by Ben Peterson on drums, Patrick Nelson on bass, Michael W. Nelson on percussion and keyboards, Kenny Wilson on lap steel, Pat Frederick on violin and piano, John Fields on shaker (Fields also mixed the album), and Jeff Victor on keyboards and backing vocals. The album features mostly original material.

The album opens with “Rosary,” in which they sing “Love is like a rosary,” the idea being to hold onto it. But the lines early in the song that grab my attention, also using religious imagery, are “The rapture’s coming, but it’s not for me/Shouldn’t take myself so seriously.” I appreciate the humor of those lines, and the idea behind them. This song was written by Daniel Murphy, and has a sort of relaxed rock vibe. It’s followed by “Panic & Blame,” which has more of a folk vibe as it begins, and is rather pretty. “You’re a bird that never sings” is a line that strikes me as incredibly sad. Being capable of something, something considered essential to your identity, and just not doing it obviously makes us wonder why. The song builds, soon having a fuller sound for the chorus. “Panic and blame running through my brain/I tried and I tried, and I can’t make it change/It’s Saturday night on the downside of town/The band counted four/And sang a song of wanting more.”

“Angel Dust” is more in the rock vein, with a good, steady beat, and guitar work that is slightly reminiscent of The Byrds. The first lines are striking: “Is it starting now/To get real for you somehow/Disavow/Images and sacred cows/Step out of the darkness/There’s something here you might want to see/We too shall find that the ties that bind/Could be our remedy.” There is such a good energy, particularly to the vocal delivery, and some nice guitar work. This is one of my personal favorites. It was written by Daniel Murphy, Jeff Arundel and Pedro Mariani. They mellow things out again at the beginning of “Paris.” This one too has opening lines that grab us: “I heard your name is Paris now/I suppose that you’re for sale.” Though there is a deliciously raw feel to this song, there is also a sweeter aspect to it. Then in the second half, it takes a slight turn, building in energy. Then “Charity” begins with some gentle, soft work on guitar. “Hey, is this Charity?/So glad I had your number on me.” It is interesting that in most of these early tracks they are addressing different individuals, some with unexpected names such as Paris and Charity. This track features some really nice vocal work.

I love that cool percussion and bass line as “Surprised” begins. This song has a somewhat darker, haunted vibe. Each of these songs has a lyric that stands out and pulls me in. In this song it is “She realized it’s the end of the costume party.” That is a strong line, giving us a vivid picture of this character and the situation. Also, it got me to thinking about reality in general, how things often seem to be a costume party, each of us in some form of disguise, playing some sort of charade. And it all has to come to an end at some point, right?  “Surprised” is followed by “The Ballad Of Julie Ann,” which has a darker aspect as well. “But we’ve been listening to liars/We could never seem to read a room.” Interestingly, this one too mentions costumes: “a steamer trunk with old costumes” and “Let’s dress up and play pretend.” But it is that guitar work during the instrumental section in the middle that really stands out for me. This track also contains some nice work on keyboards. It also gives the album its title in the lines, “Because we don’t know if you are coming back/Hope’s eternal when the skies are blue.” This is another of my personal favorites. Its power kind of sneaks up on you.

“Firefly” is another song that addresses an individual: “You say you lost your phone/I think you lost your mind.” Those lines make me smile each time I listen to this disc. And check out these lines: “Did I step on your lines, mangle some phrases/Not see the signs or go to those places/That you hold dear somewhere in your mind/Were we talking in tongues, speaking in code/Was it something inside that was supposed to explode.” And it ends with the line “We’re out of time,” which seems a fitting final line. That’s followed by “Sandy,” a really good pop song, which also addresses a specific person. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I know I never was your Valentine/The poem I wrote didn’t even rhyme/We never had an anniversary/Summer’s going to bring you back to me/Sandy, I’m getting drunk in my car.” Then we get the album’s only cover, “Celebrated Summer,” a song written by Bob Mould and originally recorded by Hüsker Dü and included on the 1985 album New Day Rising. The version here is quite a bit different from the original recording. These guys deliver a sweet rendition, beginning it with that moment in the original when Bob Mould suddenly quiets things down for the line “Then the sun disintegrates between a wall of clouds.” In this version, that is the first line. They then go back to deliver the song’s first lines.

“Fresh New Hell” has an intriguing opening, and is a song that comes out of the pandemic. “Who can I turn to/Never knew I’d look so good on you/Should we kill the virus.” And with lines like “We’re in some kind of fresh new hell” and “Don’t start with me, I’m not in the mood,” this is a song that is completely speaking to me right now. Things have been pretty screwed up in what I can see of the world, the pandemic only a part of it, and this song seems to speak to all of it. “If you feel a need, I want to feel it too/It’s not what we’ve done, it’s what we ought to do.” It looks at the larger world, then pulls it in closer for lines like “We wrote some songs in quarantine/Mostly sad songs, the way things are and often seem.” Haven’t we all been affected by this strange time? The song has a false ending before its odd final moments. The album concludes with “Minor Things,” a gentle and moving song, a strange sort of longing to it. “And I don’t think that this is how it was meant to be/You fell sick and I can’t catch a cold/Sing to me in harmonies/Childhood melodies/Of minor things in a major key/Please.” That “Please” offered on its own just kills me. There is some wonderful work on violin, and this song is strangely beautiful. It also hit me hard, making me think of my dad’s struggle with dementia last year. “No one wants to die all alone/Hearing voices through the trees/Making choices that no one sees.” This is another of the disc’s highlights.

CD Track List

  1. Rosary
  2. Panic & Blame
  3. Angel Dust
  4. Paris
  5. Charity
  6. Surprised
  7. The Ballad Of Julie Ann
  8. Firefly
  9. Sandy
  10. Celebrated Summer
  11. Fresh New Hell
  12. Minor Things

Hope’s Eternal was released on March 24, 2023 on Angel Dust Records, and is available on CD and vinyl.

No comments:

Post a Comment