Edinburgh La Belle Angele

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Pretension, as every proper pop hero knows, is the enemy of mediocrity. That [B]The Black Heart Procession[/B]...

Pretension, as every proper pop hero knows, is the enemy of mediocrity. That The Black Heart Procession – San Diego’s finest death-march miserablists – are pretentious, there is no doubt.

Behold their neat black shirts and Devo-shaped school ties; their stiff little shoulders and similarly unyielding way with a rusty saw and cello bow. Witness too, the way organ-stroker Toby Nathaniel fixes his stare somewhere north of the ceiling lights. But beyond the heavily-polished sheen of academia, the electronic precision and orchestrated anguish, something wicked is stirring.

For though TBHP (essentially Nathaniel and singer Pall Jenkins) are men clearly in thrall to the grand dames of pop theatre (Bowie, Roxy Music, [I]et al[/I]), they temper their icier leanings with influences nobbled from far less orthodox sources. So while ‘Waterfront’ may frolic in the same mire as primetime Cure, its queasy guitar recalls the pagan folkery of The Wicker Man. ‘We Always Knew’, on the other hand, rests its leaden boots at the altar of B-grade horror guru Roger Corman – a sea-sick shanty awash with sonic shadows and fog.

It’s all rather bamboozling and a little self-indulgent. But the Black Heart shtick is done with a madly inspired sense of invention that is virtually unparalleled in today’s pop world. Pretentious? [I]Mais oui[/I], and all the better for it too.