Bad Luck City hails from what has become the epicenter of dark roots music: Denver Colorado, and they do their hometown proud on their second release "Adelaide".
Despite Bad Luck City's Americana roots they are an urban band. The songs feature tales of classic themes like naked girls and alcohol but the band's also troubled by traffic and the claustrophobia of shitty city apartments. Singer Dameon Merkl is haunted equally by monsters and mishaps, by nightmares and the petty bullshit of everyday living.
Musically the band has crafted something that is at home with Hank Williams and Lee Hazelwood (they reinterpret his "The Night Before" as high-tragedy for the album's opener) as well as proto-goth and post-rock. Just when you think that the violin on "Adelaide" can't get any more sublime rough electric guitar thrusts its way to the forefront reminding that Bad Luck City is not a place to get comfortable.
Merkl's vocals are laconic and sepulchral, not so much song as growled/droned/hissed out through broken teeth in a spoken (drunken) blues delivery that will bring comparisons to Nick Cave, but owes as much to Tom Waits and Jim Morrison. What makes this work is that Dameon is well aware that there's a fine line between menace and comedy... and he skillfully invokes both.
When you couple Merkl's vocals with the twisted music of the band you end up with graveyard music. Not pretty, picturesque rural graveyards, but those overgrown, half-forgotten urban resting places that you have to get past barbed-wire to get to so that you can drink yourself unconscious on your friend's grave after sleeping with his widow. Bad Luck City is eulogy rock, epitaph rock.
My only concern is that the band may be too good at what they do. The songs here a tight and the band works together wonderfully but I can't help wondering if they've played themselves into a corner. Perhaps they've perfected their particular sound too much and haven't left room for exploration and advancement.
But that's a petty quibble and I think that Bad Luck City is well worth visiting, especially if you feel that "murder ballads" are just the starting point for dark music.
--Sepiachord.com, November 26, 2008