Me and You Cherry Red
Even solid releases, if imprudently spaced, can exhaust an audience and give an impression of impatience and desperate hyperactivity. But Me and You Cherry Red, which arrives hot on the heels of 2007's Virgin Dust American Lips, is anything but a hasty land grab. Flexing a quantum leap in production values and a musical growth spurt that even Vampire Hands' most devoted fans could not have anticipated, Cherry Red is a work of stunning inspiration. "Statuette," the album opener, is a cavernous, moody overture that finds Colin Johnson in an ominously tame croon over which Chris Rose's brooding guitar drifts like a skein of acid fog. "No Fun" and "Safe Word," a pair of rapt, airtight pop songs, are the album's most concretely catchy tracks. In the former, Chris Beirden's near falsetto is an arctic infiltration of a bobbing, bass-heavy swagger, while the latter finds Rose in a spasmodic blues rapture that echoes John Lee Hooker in an opium daze.
In its second half, the album takes a daring turn for the ethereal—the conga beat of "Friendship Road" thins like mountain air into a synthesized drone, ultimately pooling into a pair of breathlessly melodic companion tracks, "Cathedral Blues Part One" and "Part Two." It's a mild misfortune that "Part One," an amorphously melodic prelude within which all the album's rhythmic schematics glower like a cloud of erasures, leads to the album's most familiar territory. "Part Two," which drips with their signature sticks-and-tom drum work and pack-mule bass lines, is uneasily similar to "Queen Juno," the stand-out track from their 2006 EP, At Wizard Island. It's still a remarkable offering, but it's the album's least adventurous turn, and beside the titular "Me and You Cherry Red," a spare, alkaline reduction of everything that has preceded it, "Part Two" seems like a glance backward at the height of immense forward momentum. But this hiccup is a vanishingly minor concern. Vampire Hands' sense of boundless exploration makes Me and You Cherry Red a masterpiece, one that illuminates a future of blinding possibility no one could forecast.