Every blood cell in me resists this band, this record: its laborious surrealism, its too-uncool-for-the-universe ethos, its feet-in-the-mire rhythms, the monochrome baritone vocals. And then the odd, dark grace of these 13 songs further unfolds with every new listening.
The Handome Family, a Chicago-based husband and wife team of Brett and Rennie Sparks - Brett the slumbering Nick Cave-like singer/guitarist; Rennie the writer/bassist- create left-of-left-center pastoral ballads which are as arch as they are absolutely country in many of their arrangements. The sound of steel guitar and cool autoharp drift in and out of their musical ether - and most all of their melodies.
If songs like "Weightless Again," "The Giant of Illinois," and "Cathedrals," with a couplets like "The cathedral in Columbus like a spaceship/like the hand of God falling from the sky" seem inscrutable, they are also charming and intelligent. And "Last Night I Went Out Walking" with its closing request, "Roll my body back to you/my love you may always keep" sounds like a grace note from a band on the eccentric fringes of the alt. country movement, but very much essential to its consistent intrigue.