Lee Harvey Osmond – [Album]

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

At some point in its runtime, every great and deliriously medicated film noir made in the last twenty years seems to feature montage footage of eerie,  disquieting desert scenes that convey the desperation of those surroundings (think Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, U-Turn, The Doors and Natural Born Killers just to name a few). Common features to these montages tend to be images like a dead armadillo on the side of Route 666, scorpions fighting over territory or Gila monsters hissing, and, yes, they're unusual, but they're a common cinematic device used to give viewers the impression that what they're about to witness is a series of equally disquieting events which, like that aforementioned stock footage, could have only appeared in the desert.

Why is this cinematic line of thought pertinent to a review of a Canadian band's debut album? Because from note one of the opening track, “The Love Of One,” Lee Harvey Osmond's debut album, A Quiet Evil, plays like the perfect score for such surreal footage.

The brainchild of ex-Junkhouse front man Tom Wilson and Cowboy Junkies founders Margo and Michael Timmins, Lee Harvey Osmond's debut invokes all manner of unusual imagery (even the band's name is a cross between fantastic and slightly psychotic sources; invoking Lee Harvey Oswald, Harvey The Rabbit and the Osmond family at the same time) and makes the most of letting the inherent darkness of the matter they're playing with simmer; glancing peripherally at it and alluding to it, but not addressing it directly. That sort of deliberate toying with listeners is incredibly salacious bait – Wilson's husky baritone combined with sounds that borrow from blues, folk and country & western as well as the Cowboy Junkies' stock brand of dissonant, electronic blues conjure an imposing, acid-touched and dark expanse that isn't harrowing because the band doesn't draw listeners in so much as perform these ten vignettes for the audience  and only allow them to experience it in the third person. That buffer provides a comfort zone from which listeners to absorb the music and feel the tales of heartbreak, sadness, fury and excess, but not to partake of them – each is a self-contained event in which only the characters can be harmed, but listeners can still be seduced by them.

As dark and demented as these proceedings get, there is light at the end of the tunnel and, as a cover of Lou Reed's “I Can't Stand It” bursts forth, listeners find themselves clinging to that magical refrain: “It'll be alright.” After all the demons, dust and devils this record parades across the stage, such a single reassurance feels elating; but it also gives the band members a back door exit out of this most exquisite of terrors. It's a necessary escape too – everyone involved with the project has another home to go to (Wilson has Blackie And The Rodeo Kings as well as a solo career, the Timmins have Cowboy Junkies and all the side players that come along for the ride here have day jobs with Skydiggers, as producers, other B.A.R.K.-ers and more) and so also has an incentive to not tread here for too long. Still listeners will find themselves hoping that A Quiet Evil isn't the only thing that comes out of Lee Harvey Osmond. This album lets listeners walk on the wild side without having to touch it personally and that kind of escapism is addictive. It also begs for at least one more repeat performance.


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“The Love Of One” from A Quiet Evil by Lee Harvey Osmond.


A Quiet Evil
is out now and available to buy here on Amazon .

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