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Lovely as the day

The Scourge of the Sea - Make Me Armored
(Alias Records)
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 22, 2006
The Scourge of the Sea

Review by Tony Bonyata

On The Scourge of the Sea's full-length debut Make Me Armored the Lexington, KY-based trio delivers an irresistible array of pop songs that mixes both the sunny optimism of the NYC singer/songwriter scene of the mid '60s, along with a decidedly darker, more pensive split-personality.

The band consists of drummer/vocalist Robby Cosenza, bassist/vocalist Justin Craig (both from the phenomenal, often explosive Lexington rock outfit The Apparitions), along with lead vocalist/guitarist Andrew English. But unlike The Apparitions' own toxic cocktail of three-part guitar assault, two-part tuneful vocals and one-part bombastic dynamics, The Scourge of the Sea is a much gentler affair - crafting near-perfect pop songs, not too dissimilar from compositions created by Simon and Garfunkel four decades earlier, and downsizing the arrangements to cast both dapples of light and darker shadows throughout this ten-song collection.

When the blinds are drawn, as on the irresistible "My Sweet One," "Smitten Kitten" and "Goodbye, Darkness," English's inviting vocals and brilliant pop melodies showcase him as one of the strongest singer/songwriters to emerge from the recent indie-rock movement. But, somewhat surprisingly, as great as these upbeat songs are, some of the more pensive numbers turn out to be even more engaging, which is probably why the album opens up with two of these more subdued gems. "Out of the Trash," finds the love-scorned English, not ready to give up on a failed relationship, picking through his loved one's trash for memories of better times. A sad story, which only takes on more meaning with the frail, haunting melody and lilting harmonies. The following track "Waterwings," as well as "Chasing Roses," the latter which is given a light, yet spirited alt-country treatment, are, likewise, more introspective numbers that are as deliciously sad as they are beautifully frail.

By album's end the band manages to work off some of the sweet calories on the Cosenza-led "Chocolate Chips," where the trio locks into a saddle-sore, bluesy swagger that makes for a powerful conclusion, yet ultimately lacks the dynamics that this band is capable of (which is something they fortunately deliver as part of their live show, even though on this particular number Cosenza - arguably one of rock's strongest drummers today - is up front on guitar and vocals, while Craig fills in on percussive duties).

By name The Scourge of the Sea may sound like a plundering band of buccaneers, but musically - with indelible melodies and gentle arrangements - these bards are, in the words of Longfellow, "lovely as the day."

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