Matt Jones, who is the driving force behind Two Cent Revival, brings many textured layers to bear on ‘Demons‘. There are clear dusty desert rock influences as well as a touch of cinemagraphic glamour – and it would be a foolish person who would bet against Jones ever having spun a disc or two by Tom Waits, yet for all that it is the originality of the album that is most likely to linger in the memory. Two Cent Revival take the listener on a journey through a world of mostly darkness – with the occasional glimmers of light burning through the wells of cynicism, obsession and despair. It’s a sonic carnival ride – unfortunately it’s Dark’s Carnival and characters abound happy to share their ill-fated stories and to indicate the paths to a worse outcome. ‘Candy‘ personifies this – coming in on a simple drum and bass accompaniment Matt Jones describes a barroom meeting “after the drink you kept on smiling / your eyes said go there was no hiding / like candy on a plate I took my greedy fill” which becomes so much more “I cannot help myself around thee / your lips are unholy your charms are irresistible.” A doubt as to whether this is a true bad-love story or a personification of something darker slips in as events unfold “I lost my senses I could not see I must admit that I felt like a king /… Soon my girl you make a junkie out of me.” There’s a musical perfection as Brian Axford leads into a Doors-esque organ solo and then takes fire with Elijah Tucker’s screeching guitar solo.
‘Happy Hell‘ eases in on an eerie organ accompaniment, as Jones elaborates his many failings – drink, drugs, lust – he enjoyed them all. It’s an un-penitent’s confession, which unemotionally accepts his fate “send me to my Happy Hell – may be there already / Send me to my Happy Hell – I’ll just keep on living.” The title song takes a moments pause to reflect on that outcome with a stranger quietly proffering advice on reconsidering self-destruction before its too late “hey, friend, why don’t you quit burning bridges before you’ve even crossed them – take it from me it’s not worth it” before dancing wildly in a ghostly revel “if I still had my body I would live my life very differently / but my sin is dragging me down in this hell.” When the brass arrives like braying devils it’s a toss-up as to whether redemption is in anyway still within grasping distance.
There’s a vaudevillian swagger to ‘It Looks Like Blood‘, a swirling cabaret of fear underscored by barrel rolling piano, like the soundtrack to a spaghetti Western shoot-out finale. However, Two Cent Revival’s contributions are not limited to the dark, violent and edgy – the album is centred on two gorgeous songs ‘Dose of Grace‘ which is a plea for spiritual redemption and ‘Julia‘ which is a pure love song with folk-rock elements reminiscent of early Steve Forbert and with Matt Jones’s vocals taking on an uncanny echo of Frank Black in ‘Honeycomb‘ mode. They are beautiful glimpses of two kinds of hope, perfectly balancing the edging darkness either side of them.
Two Cent Revival have, then, produced an album that’s more than worthy of attention – gripping storytelling, a splendid dazzle of musical blends and themes that can be taken at a superficial level but have darker levels that can be dug through – if the listener dares. – Americana -UK