It seems like Midwest indie rockers Murder By Death only just released Red of Tooth and Claw six or so months ago (even though it came out in 2008). Now, to the surprise of casual fans who had no idea the band was working on new material, comes Good Morning, Magpie a record which, it hurts to say, is as disappointing as its title.
This is a band that took a sterile, formulaic genre like indie rock and created a sound that separated them from their peers and allowed them to crossover to other genres. On the strength of the impassioned, Johnny Cash-esque songwriting of main man, Adam Turla and the novelty of adding the melancholy strains of cello to otherwise straight-forward folk/rock progressions, MBD won over indie devotees, country fans, even oft-elitist metal heads.
Magpie kicks off in typical MBD fashion with a couple of tracks dealing with the merits of drinking lots of whiskey, “Kentucky Bourbon” and “As Long As There is Whiskey in the World.” Perhaps, the novelty of the band’s music has finally worn off, but the more likely explanation is that this record was rushed.
Tracks five, “Piece by Piece,” and six, the title track, are the stronger moments but still pale in comparison to the band’s previous triumphs like “Boy Decide, ” “Brother,” and “Sometimes the Line Walks You” from 2006’s In Bocca Al Lupo or “Comin’ Home” and “Ash” from Tooth and Claw. The remaining half of the album is predictable and unmoving until the eleventh and final track “The Day” which is the both the only up-tempo song and the only one where Turla appears to challenge himself vocally. MBD fans remember with fondness the first time they heard Turla drop his usually tenor to a baritone for “Comin’ Home” and Magpie contains virtually no variance vocally or musically from the band and nothing catchy or anything we have not heard before.
It’s good that Murder By Death release an album every year and a half so. This way fans only have to wait that long until their next effort which will hopefully wash Magpie’s bland taste away. Turla’s lyrics are still good, they have always been a major attraction to the group, but this album simply plods on at a boring, uniform pace. Hopefully, time shows us that MBD has not lost their energy.
In A Word: Mild