THE SCARRING PARTY – A Concise Introduction
Written by Dan Vierck
The debut album from this Milwaukee quintet, in a little less than one-half-hour, thrusts listeners backward into a world of sounds the likes of which haven’t been heard since our great grandparents’ era.
Brandishing a well developed and expertly produced turn-of-the-century vaudevillian sound, the Scarring Party has accrued a following and reputation in Milwaukee in just over a year. A Concise Introduction was released to an enthusiastic Miramar audience Friday April 28th and on June 5th the band opened for national act Tilly and the Wall at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theatre. In a brief conversation before the show, vocalist and ringleader Daniel Bullock hoped the near-vertical trajectory would continue.
Unlike most bands out there trying to set themselves apart from bands that, for the most part, share a basic formula, the Scarring Party represents such an obvious departure from those bands that it should worry more about being dubbed a novelty act. It would be easy for them to be seen as merely a one-trick pony. But the band deftly dodges those traps with graceful instrumentation and smooth composition.
One weapon employed to avoid the tedium that might otherwise rear its ugly head in such a unique-sounding band’s circumstance is that half the tracks have some perversion of back up vocals that counter the calm, tinny sound of the lead voice. In “Devil Knows Where,” the calm is broken by the eeriness of whispering, and just as effectively the tone is broken in “This Babel” by tempered falsetto howling. These vocal effects beautifully counter the smooth, metallic sound of Daniel Bullock’s voice; a welcome constant throughout the disc.
The potential for gimmickry is also avoided by the seamless incorporation of influences. They take heavy but balanced cues from their inspirations, which include – but are far from limited to – early Guy Lombardo, the Dead Kennedys, Jonathon Swift and the beautiful, mortal world.
A consistent dynamic throughout the CD is the banjo taking lead for the fiery bits, and the accordion for the smoother parts. The difference between the banjo and the accordion here is the difference between stab wounds and blunt force trauma, respectively.
Going this fast and flawlessly in a race car is a bad thing, because you begin to think, “what’s going to go wrong?” Either you’ll take a second successful lap, or you’ll crash hardcore. Not to dismiss the wonderful world they’ve created already, but it begs the question, what happens after this concise introduction? Indeed, let’s hope the upward trajectory continues.