Album Review: The Constellations – Southern Gothic

I can understand a fascination with down-and-out Romantic drunks like Bukowski, Kerouac, Fante, Rimbaud, and early Tom Waits characters. I get it. These gentlemen are all fantastic writers and character creators. As a writer and “artist” myself, there is some kind of draw to a life of “warm beer and cold women”, as Mr. Waits says. The sort of dirty, gritty, unseemly underbelly of life can draw out the greatest sort of inspiration.

At the same time, constantly being hungover, lonely, and two steps away from being arrested for abuse isn’t the ideal life I’d like to lead. A weekend bender puts me on my ass for days to come at my “old” age. But I do see the draw. Living on the outskirts of society and making yourself disappear and giving a fuck-all to rules is, for some reason, very Romantic (note: with a capital “R”).

Elijah Jones, lead singer of new Virgin artist The Constellations, embraces this life like a bear hug to a bar stool and a bottle of Ballentine’s, and uses it as a basis for his lyrics. The band’s new album, Southern Gothic, is a collection of tales inspired by the after-hours activities in his home base of Atlanta. The video for the track “Perfect Day” follows Jones as he stumbles around a party full of naked women, strip poker games, lines of blow, and even a dominatrix room all while singing along to his band playing the song. Seems like it could be a great time…or painful…whichever you prefer.

I would choose painful, but mostly because the song itself, while containing a sufficiently catchy beat and bass-line for dancing, is pretty lackluster. The entire album contains Jones’ slow, drawling baritone that never adds much variation from song to song. There isn’t much excitement as the album goes along, and each song seems to have its tricks and that’s about it. Dynamically, it’s just not as fun as you think Jones and Co. should be having in the stories.

I won’t say it’s a terrible album. There are a couple fairly catchy tunes that I could see myself dancing to in a dark room somewhere after having had too many whiskeys. The aforementioned “Perfect Day” could work, as well as opening track “Set Back”. Outside of that, you can see a bit of potential possible in tracks like “Love is A Murder”, which even features booty shaking hero Cee-Lo but falls flat with its boring chorus of synth and lines: “If you really wanna live you gotta be ready to die. Every single love’s a murder you gotta commit to survive.” YAWN!

Sorry…I lost interest just writing that line. Like I said, I get the draw to the underbelly lifestyle. I’m a giant fan of Tom Waits, but unlike Elijah Jones, Waits can tell a story and make it exciting. (P.S. The Constellations did a rewritten version of Waits’ “Step Right Up” that you can hear on their myspace. If you’re a Waits fan, it’ll make you want to have an acid fight with a kitten. Apparently Waits approved it…but he also approved Scarlett Johansson.) The Constellations could’ve made a great danceable album about drunks and hookers, but instead just made a drunk sorority girl frat house dance album. But I admire their effort. Keep it up, kids. I’m sure you’re lovely people. Let’s shoot whiskey and talk about euphemisms for vaginas some time.


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