For a band whose live performances are marked by their theatricality and infectious intensity, The Silent Comedy’s recordings can be surprisingly intimate affairs. Their debut full-length, Sunset Stables, emphasized narrative and restraint over whiskey drinking and foot stomping, and now, on their self-titled EP, they pick up where that record left off.
From the opening moments of maudlin country ballad “Daisy”, The Silent Comedy draws you into a rich world of broken bottles and shattered hearts. The song nimbly swells, retreats, then swells again, a ribcage barely containing the heart within. J. John’s vocals intertwine in a tender duet with I. Forbes’ gorgeous violin, and when he begs, “Break me, Daisy”, it’s hard to believe that she hasn’t done so already.
The band switches gears on the next track, “’49”, evoking Man Man with its growling vocals and falsetto playground chants. Like Tom Waits — one of the band’s most obvious influences — The Silent Comedy are able to sound simultaneously retro and timeless. Piano, violin, mandolin, and banjo feature just as prominently as the usual guitar, bass, and drums, and the diversity of instrumentation comes across as refined yet raw, never losing its edge or slipping into stateliness.
J. Benjamin takes the reins on “Gasoline”, a song that begins as no more than a struck match but soon erupts into an inferno of Celtic strings, propellant drums, and contagiously roared vocals. J. Benjamin and J. John share the mic on a new-and-improved version of “Beware”, a dirge that sneaks in dressed as a lullaby, and which boasts a new, haunting finale that allows the song — last seen as a Sunset Stables deep-cut — to cut even deeper.
Rounding off the disc is “Carnival,” a rousing shout-along that gives the EP a thrilling and tantalizingly brief shot of adrenaline before its decidedly abrupt ending. Though many EP’s can start to stumble as they near the finish line, The Silent Comedy is a hustler, betting frugally at first, but then keeps upping the ante. It is a milestone for the band, who have finally managed to commit both sides of their persona to tape, merging the intimacy of their previous recordings with the immediacy of their live shows, and in doing so they add the tears to the whiskey that make it go down just right.