Venice Is Sinking
Sorry About the Flowers
hatever happened to good ol’ “Band X sounds like Band Y”? Nowadays, the average music critic probably has more education under their belt than your local Congressman, so we’re stuck firmly in a new world order where reviews of new artists strive and mostly fail to have as much autonomous artistic merit as the album it’s evaluating, and the writer ends up telling you more about himself than the band. So really, why resort to the usual piling on of tautology and pretty turns of phrase when there’s only seven words that are important in regards to whether or not you’ll want to check out Venice Is Sinking: they sound an awful lot like Low.
To be more specific, they sound like older Low if they added a violinist and traded in corrosive cynicism for being really, really bummed out. I can’t imagine Venice Is Sinking chafing at this comparison, since more than a few Low lifers are looking elsewhere after being rubbed the wrong way when The Great Destroyer turned out to be equal parts steel and wool. But if Venice Is Sinking does stand to gain from this vacuum, it’ll have a lot more to do with form than content. All the reverb, sighing violin pulls, and soft-focus harmony is just Vaseline on the lens obscuring songs that don’t hold up under close scrutiny.
Perhaps too peppy to be considered true “slowcore,” at its most brisk, Sorry About the Flowers achieves an alternate reality where Loveless was remastered without feedback. For a band that strives for pretty (the words “Venice,” “sinking,” “sorry” and “flowers” should’ve told you that), they get the most mileage out of their propulsive side, but it rears its head at a point where the listener may have already tuned out. If “sad music” was to ever catalog its equivalent of stock 12-bar blues riffs, the first half of this album would be a good place to start. Drop-D chunk (“Pulaski Heights”), weeping major-7ths (“Undecided”), tangled Bloodflowers basslines (“Arkansas”), the waltz-time strummer (“Adropolis”)…it’s all there, straining to activate tapped-out tear ducts.
But you don’t come to this stuff for the chops so much as you do the comfort of being sad. Unfortunately, Venice Is Sinking is truly handicapped by their vocals, which tend to assume that beauty is granted prima facie by M/F interplay. Daniel Lawson and Karolyn Troupe achieve a sort of codependency when they draw out longing harmonies, seeking strength in each other because they’re too weak to make it on their own. Lawson’s lead performances are flat and tentative throughout, and at some points you can visualize the producer frantically waving him closer to the mic. Troupe’s tone is slightly sweeter, but her harmonizing seems more out of habit than inspiration and are often just “off” enough to be a distraction.
They’re capable of achieving fits of low-res beauty (“Andropolis”) and can put on a compelling live show, so it’s not fair to write off Venice Is Sinking after their first release. Hopefully, next time they’ll have the songwriting muscle to craft a few tunes that can’t be jarred out of your memory by the slightest of breezes.
Listen to songs from Sorry About the Flowers here.