Local Album Review: The Border

Posted on February 14, 2014 in Album Reviews, Arts & Culture
By elledavis

Successfully executing the traditionally untraditional, and predominantly disfavored, integration of punk and country genres, here’s one stampede of an album fresh out of Dirigimus, Portland’s very own DIY music cooperative.  Seriously, listen up and listen well.

The Coalsack in Crux released their second album, The Border, in January, and it’s by far one of the most innovative local records released in the past year.  It looks (or rather, sounds) like they’ve assumed responsibility for unyieldingly redefining much of the tones of Portland’s music scene (whether they meant to or not).

Many a music fan has cringed at the mere mention of cowpunk abominations and the tacky psychobilly trend, and while the undertones of both are slinking amidst the tracks, such as “New Eden,” there is undeniably something more happening within these songs. One would think Coalsack would be doomed to condemnation, with such a peculiar choice of melodic amalgamation, but the emotion is too raw, the imagery too pensive. The cherry on top is a conceptual allegory that’s subtly pious.  They certainly give the nihilistic punk scene in Portland a run for its money in terms of what’s left to be considered “edgy.”

“Book of Lies”, the very first track, dashes all despairing expectations of any cowpunk kitsch.  Country?  Sure.  Punk?  Yes.  Psycho?  Absolutely.  The listener is thrown into a rather straightforward punk number, amidst a whole album of fantasy-spaghetti-western musical contemplations, with lines such as “Hold your ground at the speed of light / Footsteps behind your whole life / Fall asleep at ninety miles an hour / You’re shouting silence from the tower.”  The album continues to unfurl into a moderato of twangs and snarls with Leif Sherman Curtis’s surgically played guitar, the mastermind energy of frontman Caleb Coulthard, the perfected drums of Adinah Barnett and the bass lines of Steve Tesh.

Consider The Border the result of a raunchy desert trailer romp between Hank Williams and The Gun Club, forming a wayward child with a dichotomous mindset pulled between perilousness and holiness.  Even in the more down tempo moments, as manifested in “My Friends Carry Knives,” you never find yourself relieved of the tense downward spiral into cavernous wit and deranged lawlessness.  And lawless they are in their genre-defying act.  Don’t miss out on having your mind blown to smithereens by The Coalsack in Crux in the best of ways.

A bit of life-changing advice from someone who attended the unbelievable recent CD release show: go see them live.  Their next show is March 7 at Geno’s with Boyfriends and Erroraeon.  The Border, and their first album, Before, After, Forever, and Always, can be found at Bull Moose.