Opening with the title track, which is an vintage-style piano shuffle, crooned and festooned with orchestra arrangements, it leads to “Mother’s Got A New Son”, which begins slow and mournful but then turns jaunty with an off-time rhythm and into “The Duke In Berlin” – a piano/torch ballad. “No, Nothing” has already been aired (“Rufus Wainright meets Brian Wilson”); “Philadelphia” is upbeat in a Ben Folds way; “Danger” is both beautiful and dramatic – the musical body of this album is piano and vocals with only the lightest (but highly skillful) “band” accompaniment.
A quiet affair, this is an album for an evening of quiet contemplation and thoughtful discussion. A solid effort from Will Currie & The Country French.
There’s a number of heavy piano ballads on the album that have a tendency to bog it down, while the tracks that feature drum fills, electric guitar solos, horns, and other funky elements are usually when the quartet is at its best. Most of those diverse instrumental songs show up on the first half of the album, which gets off to a strong start with the title track and the jazzy standout, “Mother’s Got A New Son.”
Another thing holding back “The Duke in Berlin,” “Danger,” and the songs that mainly focus on piano is that they also thrust the spotlight on Currie’s vocals, which sound much better in front of a full band. As much as his piano chops can make you feel like you’re listening to Billy Joel or Todd Rundgren, his singing has more in common with someone like The Tallest Man on Earth. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, and on “The Water,” Currie enhances the chorus in a big way with his impressive range.
From start to finish, They Killed Us is an album that keeps you entertained in a variety of ways—saving the most unexpected for last—you can only guess where the band’s versatile musicianship might take things next. It’s certainly something that Bernstein and the rest of his contemporaries would be proud to listen to.