Release Date: June 9th, 2015
Label: File Under: Music
They Killed Us, the second full-length release from Will Currie & The Country French, is an album that has one foot firmly entrenched in both the present and the past. At times it goes off in the direction of Rufus Wainwright, Ben Folds Five, and the other piano-driven power pop practitioners of today; everywhere else, it’s more or less a tribute to Leonard Bernstein and all the mainstream classical legends that got us here. It makes for a pretty endearing combination—one that certainly won’t alienate listeners who don’t want too much pure symphonic music bombarding their ears.
That being said, you sort of end up wishing that the band had experimented with upbeat rock sequences and orchestral flourishes even more than they already do. There’s a number of heavy piano ballads on the album that have a tendency to bog it down, while the tracks that feature drum fills, electric guitar solos, horns, and other funky elements are usually when the quartet is at its best. Most of those diverse instrumental songs show up on the first half of the album, which gets off to a strong start with the title track and the jazzy standout, “Mother’s Got A New Son.”
Another thing holding back “The Duke in Berlin,” “Danger,” and the songs that mainly focus on piano is that they also thrust the spotlight on Currie’s vocals, which sound much better in front of a full band. As much as his piano chops can make you feel like you’re listening to Billy Joel or Todd Rundgren, his singing has more in common with someone like The Tallest Man on Earth. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, and on “The Water,” Currie enhances the chorus in a big way with his impressive range.
From start to finish, They Killed Us is an album that keeps you entertained in a variety of ways—saving the most unexpected for last—you can only guess where the band’s versatile musicianship might take things next. It’s certainly something that Bernstein and the rest of his contemporaries would be proud to listen to.