Originally formed in the 80’s, The Choir’s long creative partnership between singer and guitarist Derri Daugherty and drummer and lyricist Steve Hindalong continues to reap rich musical rewards on the band’s 16th studio album. While no band thrives through multiple decades without some willingness to adapt to changing musical trends, The Choir has adjusted without sacrificing their core aspiration of wedding ethereal, atmospheric guitar effects (think U2’s Edge) to a grounding, rock-solid percussive beat, while the catchy, sung melodies carry the substantial weight of lyrics that echo honest-to-life experiences. The duo were joined early on by Dan Michaels on sax and lyricon, an electronic wind synthesizer, and over the years worked with a variety of bassists, most notably Tim Chandler who died in 2018. Lately, the trio have relied on crowd-funding to help finance their creative efforts, resulting in some remarkably strong albums for a band this late in their career: 2014’s Shadow Weaver and 2018’s Bloodshot.
One track here, “Mystical World,” has been available for a few years, released as a single to streaming services in 2019. The opening sax and catchy 80’s guitar melody suggests a vibe similar to The Cars, except Daugherty’s gorgeous vocal stands completely on its own. The smart lyric follows a theme often present in The Choir’s work, tying the earthly romance of attraction to some sense of the supernatural, a spiritual connection. “Hurricane” opens the album reflecting on the many things in life that are beyond our control, and we cling to security in the relative safety of the eye, while musically the song devolves into one of Daugherty’s floating ambient guitar effected moments. It’s followed by the true torrential rocker, “The Wood,” with an aggressive guitar attack and a gripping sax solo is a welcome return to an intensity reminiscent of the band’s great, underrated ’93 release, “Kissers & Killers.”
While Bloodshot dealt with heavier, darker themes, Deep Cuts may address the healing of old wounds, but it’s an altogether more up-tempo effort that rocks with intentionality and purpose. Even “Aces Over Eights,” which deals with the “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” that awaits us all, it’s delivered with a pop energy and positivity. Michael’s sax additions are subtly present, used as smart accents in the most tasteful and engaging ways, while Hindalong’s smart rhythms set the pace in a way that pushes the energy in a distinct forward motion in “Trouble” and “Feel You Close.” And the guitar solos from Daugherty on “Feel You Close” and “Sunshine Girl,” and elsewhere reverberate with an energy that has been less obvious.
Like the Psychedelic Furs album last year, The Choir has delivered a collection of new songs that draw on previously established strengths, which managed to touch on familiar musical textures while creating something vital, current and that breaks new ground.
Key Tracks: “The Wood” / “Mystical World” / “Sunshine Girl”
Artists With Similar Fire: U2 / Psychedelic Furs / The Church
The Choir Review History: Bloodshot (2018)
– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb