The Sideshow Tragedy – A View From Nowhere | Album Review

The Sideshow Tragedy – The View From Nowhere

Hand Drawn Records

9 songs/ 34 minutes

Modern musicians make music that is an amalgamation of their influences. Over the last century the rapid growth in availability of music, the transformation from localized entertainment to international transmission, has made it impossible for modern music makers to actually break new ground. We take bits and pieces of our influences and interpret them through our own lens; we connect dots in different source material that hadn’t been connected before. It is in these moments of collage, interpretation and appropriation that we modern musicians express our truths, our perspectives and identities. The influence sphere grows and changes over time and the musician evolves. This is what’s happening with The Sideshow Tragedy’s newest record A View From Nowhere.

The Sideshow Tragedy, singer/lyricist/guitarist Nathan Singleton and drummer Jeremy Harrell, are an Austin, TX based blues rock duo. The band started out a decade ago with an alt-rock sound then quickly moved into the hard driving rock duo that they are today. 2012’s Persona and 2015’s Capital are both electric doses of raw immediate Stooges informed blues-rock. This new record takes that live-wire energy into a pastoral upstate New York setting, and the results are a major artistic step forward for the band. Recorded at Old Soul Studios in the Catskills by producer and multi-instrumentalist Kenny Siegal, A View From Nowhere is polished and controlled while retaining raw emotion.

This record is not a duo record, overdubbing abounds. Most of the songs feature Singleton performing multiple guitar parts and bass accompaniment, Harrell plays a variety of percussion and Siegal adds organ, piano and stand up bass. Singleton’s singing throughout this record is chameleon like. He goes from a dead-on Lou Reed impression, something we haven’t heard from him, to Robert Plant worthy wailing, something he has not done with such control and musicality on record before. Singleton’s unique guitar sound is a steel resonator guitar through amplification and distortion, usually with a slide, and with the tuning real low like a baritone guitar. The multi-part choruses of guitar blend together and create lush soundscapes accentuated by straightforward on-the-beat bass playing (the type of bass playing a guitar player does). Harrell’s often manic polyrhythmic drumming is not restrained on this album but given more polish. Each multi layered rhythm is given its own space to breath and the meter and tempo of this album is clear and consistent.

A View From Nowhere has strains of Velvet Underground and 80’s Lou Reed, Sonic Youth and Pavement (the art rock slackers of the grunge movement). There is less Muddy Waters shuffle and swagger like in past outings. There is instead the Morphine funk of “Time to Taste” with Greg Senterfit’s saxophones and Singleton phasing his guitar. Or, the marching chug of “Long Time Coming” with the natural acoustic sound of the resonator breaking through. “Long Time Coming” in particular, with additional looping from Matt Cullen and stand up bass from Siegal, exemplifies the artistic steps forward of this record. The spoken word drone of the vocals matched with a Sonic Youth multi-guitar melody line are a new amalgamation of influences. 

A View From Nowhere is not a traditional blues album but a quick jolt of rock. It’s balance of pedal to the metal abandon, brooding lyricism and intricate layering of sound make it worth the listen.

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