Demons, spirits, ghosts, hell, graves, death, reapers, rattlesnakes, villains, spooks, ghouls, fools, disasters, decomposed bodies, and New Orleans: these are the (only) things Timber Timbre’s self-titled third album are made of.
Constant references to spoooooooooky-ness aside, Timber Timbre starts out nicely enough. Album-opener “Demon Host” begins with melodic guitar and sole-member Taylor Kirk singing fading ‘oh’s over it. But then Kirk starts in with the lyrics and ruins it. “Death, she muawwst have been your will,” his voice, heavy with reverb, sings. His overly rounded pronunciation and the repetitive subject in the opening lyric create an affected gravity that’s too silly to take seriously. He’s doing a bad imitation of Billie Holiday, and it doesn’t stop for the entire album.
Actually, the whole album is a bad imitation, an amalgamation of other artists and genres so frustratingly (and effectively) mixed and matched that you’ll find yourself asking, and not in a good way, “What does this remind me of?” You’ll hear Tom Waits and Bo Diddley in “Lay Down In The Tall Grass” and “Trouble Comes Knocking”. The tempo-keeping piano part and the gospel chorus in “I Get Low” sound like something off the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. “Until The Night Is Over,” at first reminiscent of tropical music, dovetails into lyrics about a house in New Orleans, sadly forgets its tropical beginnings, and starts up with a ‘60s Monkeys vibe. This is infuriating, you’ll be thinking to yourself after it is over. Who does this guy think he is? Oh, right, a vastly inferior Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Hawkins’ New Orleans schtick was, at least in part, a joke. Kirk’s isn’t.
Theoretically, all of these musical “references” (some might call it “pick-pocketing”)—Tom Waits meets gospel meets Lauryn Hill meets Woody Guthrie meets Monkeys meets aahhhh I can’t keep it straight—sound intriguing enough to work. They don’t. Kirk’s overly dramatic voice, his inability to create an original sound and his use of morbid subject matter as a crutch (On literally every song, Kirk or someone he loves is about to or has already died—from smoke inhalation, hanging, rattlesnakes, you know, the usual) results in an album that’s heavy on ambiance and way too skimpy on identity.