CD Review

Tri-State Killing Spree - "Happy, Death, Heaven"

By Marcus Pan

Happy, Death, HeavenDon't let the name fool you. Using the name as the forefront of a parody, Tri-State Killing Spree, or 3SkS, may sound like they would be doing something industrial or thrash-centric. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Being one of the most talented group of musicians I've heard in a while, 3SkS perform a pop-rock blend of beautiful arrangements with just the right eccentric flair. They remind me of the Cure at the height of their career. Floating synthesizer chorales, blended guitar and bass lines, superb drums that help hold the ethereal nature of the work together and the Eldritch-like vocal style of their frontman have provided a comforting yet morose background for me over the past weeks. I've put off writing the review simply as an excuse to not put 3SkS on my music shelf and have to move on to something new.

There are five in the spree - one Sean Sonnet (vocals, bass, keys); one Jyri Glynn (violin (yes, really - how cool is THAT?)); one Matt Bayne (guitar, bass); one Thomas Atwell (guitar); and lastly Tim Rummerfield (drums). (Tim Rummerfield doesn't appear on their website, which leaves me to wonder if there's been a lineup change I'm unaware of.) They put together an ethereal canvas that still retains a rock ballad flavor, keeping it reachable and enjoyable to many. Even my wife can handle them - and that's saying a lot because she can't deal with very much that I force her to listen to with my work as a reviewer (hell, neither can I sometimes). A testament to Tri-State's ability to reach to even those outside of the usual genre interested in this style of musical moodiness.

Happy, Death, Heaven is released on their own indie label, Windraven Records. A 13 song collection (with a bit of an oops on the track listing so it seems - the listed track two, Time After Time, actually covers tracks 2-3 on the CD, the second track being a beautifully done ethereal intro). There are highlights I must bring to your attention, including the already mentioned Time After Time. This song is actually a cover of Cyndi Lauper - originally from her She's So Unusual of 1983 - her first to reach gold.

Tri-State Killing SpreeFavorite tracks of mine include the opening Chance. A song about a man who wants to be someone else. Loved, adored, wanting something more out of what life's given him. Not one to make lemonade out of the lemons he receives, "He's never played his cards right. Why does he play at all?" Everyone gets that way sometimes, noticing every now and then as they walk their own paths that the dark cloud has actually been there hovering over them all this time - it was just the brief glimpses of sunlight that drew your attention from the fact that there's a storm brewing. And it's your own storm.

Lamenting and brooding, Sometimes Silver is a melancholy song through which Thomas and Jyri exchange enchanting violin and guitar scores. This is an example of the difference between a "song" and an "arrangement." Sean's vocals are so close to Andrew Eldritch that I was taken aback - but at the same time the surrounding music show one that it is not the Sisters of Mercy style that 3SkS are trying to emulate, but simply speaking that's just how Sean sounds when he sings. It's nothing more than a comparison for the sake of giving you an idea. Emulation just isn't these guys' bag.

"Saviors of make believe, save one for me." Lyrics from the track Stronghands and Makebelieve. Years back, I wrote one of my favorite essays. I posted it to one of my favorite hangouts - Usenet's alt.gothic. It seemed enjoyed. The essay was called I'm Not Done Playing, and was simply a wish to remember the worlds of childhood. Back then I didn't worry about if the trains were running tonight so I can get home from the office. I didn't worry about covering Christmas expenses when it rolled around. I didn't worry if I didn't get enough work done in a day. All I worried about was being free. I absolutely adore this song - it almost makes me cry. If there is make-believe left in the world, I'd like one too, please. Save one for me, too.

Besides the one's I've mentioned, other songs to look to on Happy, Death, Heaven are Toy Matinee, with it's toy piano opening, and Antarctica. Antarctica especially, I think. A beautiful closing to a wonderful album from this Washington state based quintet. With scraping yet melodic guitars, overlapping keyboard chords, bright percussion and Sean's Bowie-like voice.

A great start for themselves and Windraven. And a return to the old sounds of the Cure and others of that ilk. This is the sound that I left punk for. This is the splendor that made me buy my first set of lipstick and eyeliner. This is the make believe that I thought I lost more than a decade ago. Save one for me…

Contact Information:
Post: Windraven Records, 1122 E. Pike St., Suite 1164, Seattle, WA, 98122

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