October 9, 2008

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Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys, Casualty Menagerie
self released, Sept. 30

This Boston-based guy/girl duo’s backstory (or dreamt-up artistic premise, they’ll never tell) is that they met when their spouses ran off with each other. Their stage show — weird instruments, guest weirdos, creepy old burnt dolls and stuff — is fast becoming legendary, at least toward Dresden Dolls’ idea of legend, and in fact they opened for Amanda Palmer once or twice in Germany.

The paltry amount of their earlier material to which I’ve been exposed relied on groove and on-the-phone-patched vocals, sort-of gothy to an extent, but this six-song EP is a Nick Cave-gone-ambient mope-fest more aptly befitting their back/BS-story. In contrast to the Dresdens, most everything they do sounds faraway, and here they use big reverb and a prattle of odd clinks and scrapes and muffled gunshots to punctuate the point, but what’s most faraway is Sickert’s brain, adopting the stance of Tom Waits in tantrum mode during “No Room,” vocal lines yelled at the wall between Bugs Bunny-fied samples of cuckoo clocks and whirligigs. “Viktagraph” is the most distant, a bit like being outside the hall during a Pink Floyd show, while “Pale Horse” is a sinister exercise in cowboys mingling with carnies. B-Eric W. Saeger