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"If We Can't Trust The Doctors"  Blanche  Release date: 2004  Label: Vinyl Junkie

I don't know if it's growing up in a wet, grey English city or what it is, but I've only ever really been able to appreciate Americana from a distance. I've never got to grips with the sheer size of the wide open plains and vast mountain ranges of the American West in anything beyond a basic mathematical sense, and the music that springs from this environment has never affected me as anything other than fantasy. Sure, it sounds good, but where's the dampness? Where's the claustrophobia?

"If We Can't Trust The Doctors" is the kind of perfect, beautiful, affecting record that transcends genres and national boundaries, and, thankfully for me, there's dampness and claustrophobia galore. The utopian, Country/Alt-Rock melodicism of the dozen or so songs here has been put through an emotionally taught, paranoid, melodramatic carnival of grotesque, warped disillusionment. The characters who populate such songs as "Do You Trust Me?", "Bluebird" and "Another Lost Summer" are frail, emotionally flawed individuals, whose best intentions are gnawed away by an ever-present, malevolent, pagan nature, like the tragic Laura Palmer in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks".

The cover versions sit next to the original compositions with nary a crack between them, the eerie and violent "Jack On Fire" being both a classic piece of Southern Gothic and a potent showcase for the sinister interplay between the twisted, affected vocals of Dan Jon Miller, and the softer, understated coo of his wife Tracee. If there could be a transatlantic equivalent to this album then perhaps its closest cousin in the old world is Clearlake's similarly murky "Cedars". The way in which both albums use their respective nations' musical heritages to imbue the mundanities of the natural environment with the darkest thoughts of the fragile human spirit is disconcerting and thrilling in equal measures. Needless to say both are highly recommended. -Ian Martin, Apr.29.04

Blanche [If We Can't Trust The Doctors] 2004 If We Can't Trust The Doctors

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