continue to deepen their exploration of diverse arrangements to good effect on Nighttown
. Many of the songs employ string orchestration, but in a manner opposite from almost every other rock act -- the violins and cellos are used to darken the atmosphere, not to sweeten it. The lyrical tone is dark (though not unremittingly gloomy) as well, exuding world-weariness, ambiguity, and guarded optimism in varying degrees; not for nothing is there a reference to "Scott Walker Street" in "Tremble Goes the Night." The Walkabouts
are one of the few groups around effectively delving into disturbing themes without bludgeoning the message to death with metallic guitar assaults and cord-shredding vocals. Nor do they, like (say) Mazzy Star
, retreat into druggy numbness and mantra-like repetitiveness. This, of course, does not make them at all trendy, and the failure of most of their '90s albums (including this Europe-only release) to even get issued in the U.S. does not make one proud to be an American.