Dark Dark Dark: “Who Needs Who” Review
Over the course of a couple albums Dark Dark Dark have gradually broadened their sound – expanding on their worldy European folk roots and channeling them into a more sophisticated genre of chamber pop. On Who Needs Who, their third full length, they continue that trend musically, while thematically adjusting their direction due to a significant fork in the road. That fork is the romantic parting of the band’s two lead vocalists, Nona Marie Invie and Marshall LaCount. While LaCount and Invie both remain seemingly committed to the band, Who Needs Who is undoubtedly shadowed by the personal rift that no doubt, affected every member of DDD.
The new material was largely penned by Invie and arranged by Tom Herbers, and its drenched with melancholy and sentimentality. Invie, once a somewhat recondite lyricist is candid and frank to the point of being effusive. And while at times that affectation can come across a tad maudlin, mainly the sentiment that pours out of Who Needs Who is that of wounds that have not yet healed. And when the Invie channels that emotional trauma into music it often results in breathtaking beauty – such as in album standout “How It Went Down,” a stark, sparsely accompanied tune in which Invie channels heartbreak unreservedly. While Dark Dark Dark’s music has always tended somewhat towards romanticism, it has never come across with as much bittersweet authenticity.
Musically Invie’s vocals very much remain the focal point of Dark Dark Dark’s sound, and though LaCount customarily fronts a song or two his voice is largely absent in this regard. Invie is mainly accompanied by piano, though her accordion is frequently present too. Who Needs Who wallows in melancholy jazz and noir afflicted chanson, courtesy of Walt McClements’ trumpet, Adfam Wozniak’s bass, and Mark Trecka’s nimble drums. LaCount is still present as well – adding his sonorous clarinet to tunes like “It’s a Secret.”
Its difficult to imagine the trauma that band (and particularly Invie and LaCount) must have experienced in pulling Who Needs Who together. Even though that hardship is readily apparent on nearly every tune, for the most part it only serves to further the record’s beauty. This is sad music after all – a genre that Dark Dark Dark have been dabbling for years. It makes sense that a real life tragedy might present the band an opportunity to channel that grief into some of the best music they have written.
— Jon Behm
Dark Dark Dark has two album release shows this week – Oct 3rd and 5th, both at the Cedar Cultural Center