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Perhaps it’s best to start at the end, amid freezing cold hell fire and an unexpected sense of freedom, a razed battlefield of love where everyone ends up paying a price and the Devil inevitably gets his due.
This is the note on which local supergroup The Curtis Mayflower ends its new album, “Everything Beautiful is Under Attack,” which the band will be releasing Jan. 24 at Beatnik’s in Worcester.
And it’s absolutely devastating.
“Your wicked spell has lost its charm,” sings Craig Rawding on “The Devil Wants to Get Paid.” “Can’t do no good, can’t do no harm/ you’ve had your day/and now the devil wants you to pay.”
Rawding brings a deep blues bluster to the song, a forcefulness and emotiveness that’s been his hallmark with bands such as the Delta Generators. In any case, he’s at the top of his game here, his voice both triumphant and wracked with pain. It’s a marvel to listen to, and even more amazing how Rawding manages to sustain that intensity throughout the album.
Perhaps it’s the company he’s keeping. After all, he and the rest of this band — guitarist Pete Aleksi, drummer Duncan Arsenault, bassist Jeremy Curtis and keyboardist Brooks Milgate — have played in some of the region’s most acclaimed musical acts, from The Curtain Society to Big Eyed Rabbit, Hey Now Morris Fader to The Howl. Every musician on this lineup is a pro, and they seem to be bringing out the best in each other here.
The album gets you straight away with the opening track, “Clockwork Hearts” … a handful of bright notes, each one floating in space. And then a few more. And then a deep rock bass line that brings everything back to earth in a meteor crash.
In some ways, there’s a classic feel to the album. It stays mostly within the blues-rock end of the music spectrum. But the way the band manages to transition effortlessly throughout “Clockwork” between these icicle-delicate moments and the thicker, more rock ‘n’ roll sounds is astounding.
It’s also an album driven by a classic theme: Love lost, and the ravages that incurs. But by the time we get to the Southern-rock-driven, sidewinder guitars of “Crawl No More,” only the most cynical of hearts won’t be sold on the premise. Each song piles heartbreak upon heartbreak, until the music near buckles under the weight.
But there are crevices within the pain. The defiant “Crawl No More” gives way to the tender, resigned “Last Kiss,” a heart-rending portrait of something beautiful dissolving, leaving something broken, even slightly terrifying in its wake.
“When she shivers in the cold, cold air,” sings Rawding, “does she think with a shudder that I might be there.”
The stalkerish vibe is chilling, but that’s one of the marvelous things about this album: It paints an unflinching portrait of that sort of heartbreak, of the anger and pain that emerges. All of which begs the question: what was beautiful, and who or what is doing the attacking?
If we’re to take this as a portrait of one relationship — and really, there’s no reason not to — we end up with one side of a conversation. But even through inference, we’re left with the distinct impression that this isn’t easy foranyone.
Take, for example, the blues rocker “Carry Your Burden”:
“Carry yourself just like a woman scorned/carrying the weight of all that went wrong/like a child in your belly that never gets born/but it’s much too late for dying.”
It’s both good advice and absolutely pitiless, a cold fury that leads the listener for the sultry blues of the dark “Seven Children” and the flat-out rock of “Ben The Destroyer.” The listener is shaken, dragged through a torrent of emotion, and then, in “Destroyer,” it’s all released in a flurry of catharsis.
But it’s not over. The next song, the death-musing “Cold and Dark,” lives up to its name.
“Is it cold, dark and peaceful underneath that light?”
But then, the tone lightens with the good-night drunk blues tune, “NYCD,” before the aforementioned “The Devil Wants to Get Paid,” where the album’s persona is finally, after all of the agony, left standing amid the wreckage and, for the first time, free of the breakup’s pain.
And what was beautiful? Is it the relationship, the destruction of which unleashed a wildfire pain? Or is it something else, something deep inside the persona, a part of himself that his inability to let go of the pain is endangering. Is he, in a very real way, the one doing the attacking?
The album leaves you with questions. And if you’re not entirely heartless, perhaps a few tears. It’s an arresting piece of work, one which you can excavate new layers of with each listening.
Email Victor D. Infante at Victor.Infante@Telegram.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ocvictor.