The Civil Wars - 'The Civil Wars'

12 songs that wear their beaten but still-beating hearts on their sleeves

Photo: Press
  • Record Label Sensibility/Columbia
3 / 10
As band names go, the one chosen by Joy Williams and John Paul White has turned out to be pretty prophetic. Halfway through recording this follow-up to ‘Barton Hollow’, their 2011 winner of two Grammy Awards, the duo, citing “internal discord and irreconcilable differences”, went on indefinite hiatus. They finished the record, though, using their antipathy as a muse. The result is 12 songs that wear their beaten but still-beating hearts on their sleeves. Sometimes those heightened emotions work well – as on the brooding country-folk of ‘The One That Got Away’ and the dusty gospel blues of ‘Devil’s Backbone’ – but too often their over-earnest delivery is unbearable. That’s true most of all on ‘Disarm’, a cringeworthy cover of the Smashing Pumpkins classic. Tailor-made for a post-Mumfords world, the duo’s overwrought vocals zap the song of all passion, rendering it limp, lifeless and insincere. That, given the very real turmoil that inspired this record, is the ultimate irony.

Mischa Pearlman

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