Album Review

Elvis Perkins - Ash Wednesday

Elvis Perkins - Ash Wednesday

Elvis Perkins' debut album comes with enough back-story to overwhelm a lesser talent. He bears a striking resemblance to his late father, actor Anthony Perkins, who died of AIDS on September 12, 1992; and his mother, photographer Berry Berenson, was on the plane that hit the World Trade Center's North Tower on September 11, 2001. While it doesn't refer directly to either event, Ash Wednesday is steeped in enough anguish to live up to the title of one of its songs, "It's A Sad World After All". Remember that 9/11 happened on a Tuesday; Ash Wednesday is about the aftermath of traumas both large and small. Given that, the album feels appropriately cinematic, embellishing its understated folk-rock arrangements and Perkins' quietly riveting voice with horn and string flourishes. It plays like a movie set around a cataclysmic disaster you know is about to happen. The album starts with "While You Were Sleeping", a dreamy series of fast-forward images of family life perfectly capturing the long-days-but-short-years rhythm of parenthood. Then it moves through a series of songs about interpersonal misadventures before arriving at the title track, six-plus minutes of requiem in which Perkins' keening wail will break your heart. Yet for all the pain his voice expresses, Perkins also conveys a stoic serenity -- the sense that you can't control what happens to you, only how you deal with it. On this impressive debut album, he really does make it hurt so good.