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Pierced Arrows - Descending Shadows

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Artist: Pierced Arrows

Album: Descending Shadows

Label: Vice

Review date: Jan. 28, 2010

While listening to “Let It Rain,” one of the better songs on Pierced Arrows’ second album, Descending Shadows, I stepped into the next room. Heard from a distance, the lyrics fainter, I realized the song was almost identical to “Caroline,” the single from Pierced Arrows’ first LP, Straight to the Heart. Even the sound of this song’s chorus lyrics (“Let it rain, let it rain”) mimics the earlier song’s “Caroline, Caroline.”

Some might find this similarity unsurprising: husband and wife duo Fred and Toody Cole, the sexagenarian front-people of Pierced Arrows have played raucous, heartfelt, three-chord garage punk together since the late 1970s. After hearing a few Dead Moon albums, one recognizes a formula to their songwriting: the fast rockers; the slow backwards-looking love song; a song with the word “brain”; the rough but pretty song with Toody’s vocals dominating. Pierced Arrows is essentially the same band as Dead Moon, playing in a similar style but with a little more intense guitar noise and a different drummer (Kelly Halliburton, ex-Severed Head of State, whose father played with Fred Cole in the 1960s).

The sameness almost never matters, because a stunning number of the Coles’ songs are, for lack of a better word, hits, with memorable riffs and phrases and enunciations, a depth of emotion and a sense of conviction. But Descending Shadows lacks songs that hook into a listener’s heart the way the Coles’ best work does, when Fred’s yowls seem to express some intense primal rock truth and Toody’s croons convince you both of love’s difficulty and its undeniable existence.

The album has highlights, like the lovely Toody tune “This Time Around,” and the way Fred drawls “three sheets to the wiiiind” in “Tripped Out.” If one could hide a song from the world, I would probably chuck the grinding “Buried Alive,” about Fred being turned into a robot. The remainder of the album never sinks that low, but sounds rote, a shadow of the Coles’ better work. Although sloppiness normally both describes and compliments their sound, Shadows is messy with little to redeem it.

Straight to the Heart had no shortage of quality songs, and their next record likely will see a return to noisy, purposeful form. Rabid Fred and Toody fans will probably grab this record from their local dealer of Vice Recordings no matter what, but let me beseech the uninitiated to start elsewhere.

By Talya Cooper

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