BREECH "Tarnish and Undress"
  Ru records 2007 CD. Our rating [6/10]

by Billy Sheppard | It has been suggested in song that love is a battlefield, but something in the delivery has always seemed false to me, trumped up, and a little forced. With "Tarnish and Undress" Missy Gibson and Mike Flanagan have written dispatches from the front in the war of love. Unflinching lyrics and musical settings as imaginative as art songs bring this album to a level worthy of Charles Bukowski's stark and masterful story telling. The unsentimental treatment of love in Tarnish and Undress rivals Kurt Weil. This album rocks hard and takes prisoners only for a lark.

Watching Missy sing, even in a acoustic set, is to see raw sexuality and emotion at work in service to the song. Mike has enough creativity in his guitar, vox + bvox, baritone guitar, keyboards, clarinet, banjo, accordion and percussion to the bring out the hard edges of the song and make the spirit unavoidable and generally danceable. Breech has the power of X and some of the sonic imagination found in Tom Waits. They have a familiar sound without being any band's direct descendent. If all good love songs are created real, then Breech's love songs are realer. Breech is the heart of rock, without the sentimental sweetener. A great damn band.

SHUBERT WALTZ is no doubt built on Shubert, but the feeling is Kurt Weil. Missy sings a credible Lotta Lenya with her tongue in her clinched teeth. Open chaos breaks out on Mike's twang bar guitar revealing the dark intentions in the femme fatal. All that over the barroom piano recital Shubert Waltz. "I could tie you up. … Make you take a drink from this broken cup. So could you laugh when it's not you? … You in prison? I could piss on you!" The feeling here is so palpable that I swear she sings in German for a word or two. Derisive laughter attends the shout chorus at the end. Sucker!

TEXAS: A driving Texas big beat bass leads into the driving guitar blast through a rock song that rivals the Stones with roots in the Bayou. The hoots from the backing chorus suggest "Sympathy for the Devil" but my affinity is for the dangerous Missy and her love-at-a-price vocal delivery. "Don't love feel so good behind closed doors. You don't want to clean me up, because no one ever does. It's so tragic! Tragic! Mayhem! My instincts are reeling!" Watch out boys and girls, she don't sound like she's playing!

CONCEALED: A hesitation waltz of love and caution. "Confess! Take me where I can see the truth. Somewhere I can be with you. Tell me am I losing yet? Spare me your words of wisdom. We were on a mission … We're not soon to forget. And yet comes a price with every decision." There is a cello and/or violin and a chorus leading to the whistling in the wind solo. Mike slides from backing vocal to a heartful soto voce, only to be taken over by Missy's insistent, irreversible, strident story in song. Breech never fails to notice the price to be paid. "Damage. Take me where I deserve." This song is danceable, satisfying and disturbing. And it doesn't lie.

KEEPER OF THE KEY: "He is keeper of the key. I have come to believe that he can save me from myself." There a dance of death surf punk guitar blast in either ear, drive the spike of the song straight to the ticker. "Inside I ache. It's all the same because I love and I hate. " Breech is a master of this mixture. "Where there's a will, there's a way … It's just a heartbeat away." This is a shit kicking co-dependent stomp in the face of a bad idea. Marching into the breech, Missy is the soldier of bad love. There is something like an ecstatic utterance speed talking under the final vocal that suggests a cautionary tale. Don't try this at home!

PRESTINE has an opening guitar sound that suggests a Japanese samisan, but the beat the devil rock six string takes over for a driving and soul searing rock song. "I'm so high! I'm so high! Where am I?" An delicious male Pirates of Penzance chorus builds the false sense of wellbeing under a dangerous chaotic guitar assault bent on destruction. "Why? Why? Where is that now? He tried! He tried! [whispered] But there's no life now." Missy sings of being lost and falling apart, "but its alright. I'm just supposed to be like that." The desperation in the vocal delivery and the disturbance in the stringed attack tie all the chaos together into an infectious rock song about to fly off the hinges. "Call me contagious. Try it, you might like it!" Prestine!

GIRL OF A MESS: A duh dump duh dump chorus and rhythmic accordion from an old radio theater arrangement set the stage for an insistent march time rocker. Missy handles the talk rock opening with the steady voice of Peggy Lee or Marianne Faithful. She speaks, "In a crowded filthy boys room, I did not feel excited anymore." This may be the what-have-I-done song after the rush of a descent into excess. "How can I be responsible for this girl of a mess?" After too much is not enough, comes the recrimination and self-destruction. Enter the clowns. The devil's own violin at the end suggests the excess leaves a girl of a mess in this "city of pure lust and addiction." Cautionary tale.

UNREQUITED: If revenge would be sweet, the unrequited have a more restricted diet. "I could have loved you if you let me. Just watch you move your hips. I will hate you for forgetting me. I want to watch you lick your lips." A stark banjo like that of the Hitchhiker's Guide gives this ditty the rough and down home no starch feeling. "Drip dried, and washed clean. He's the meanest man that I've ever seen." You can check out, but she will never leave.

TIME WON'T HEAL: The opening drum circle beat begins a build to a sparse pounding. "She had to be graceful. She started to hate life. Heading in on a Greyhound in the dead of the night." This is the ride of her life. "Time won't heal though, she's been told. For every ache and pain, she's gonna find a dozen more." Mike takes the sorrow lines in the spirit of John Dough and Missy sings the Exene out of the backing vocal, "Wouldn't even mind the screaming of the tires. The crying of a baby." This is a novel of a song worthy of X at its apex.

REAL LIFE: Starts with the opening bell tone of a plucked guitar. "Don't save me give me heart ache. I want to feel alive. Don't spare me! Give me black and blues in the Summer time. I want to feel alive!" Missy remembers some dark words of truth from Momma. "You better just be tough." A vocal chorus of ahhs and an orchestral sweetener lends this rock song the feeling of grand music hall. Breech doesn't flinch at harsh reality. "Just give me real life. Just give me real life."

SWEET ONE (STALKER WALTZ) is a country waltz with that ump pah pah metallic electric barn dance sound. "Give me shelter. Grant me peace. I want to be pretty, but there's dirt on my face." There is the evidence of a night to remember. "I see your teeth on my mattress. I feel your nails on my spine." But Missy doesn't want a one-night stand. Not this time. "I want you to be happy, baby, but no I just can't let you out." Missy's voice is both compelling and chilling. "I'm never going to set you free. It's alright. It's alright." You try to reason with her, but you are getting nowhere. "Don't be afraid. I can't hear a word you say!" Alrighty then.

SAFE HERE: A liquorish stick and a twang bar guitar over the tinkling of the old 88 take this slow stomp to a punk country & western dinner theater sound. "Am I safe? How does it feel to cry out, cry out from hell, from hell." There is melodrama in the music, and heartbreak in the vocal. "Every man is the same man in a darker suit." Once again Kurt Weil would be proud of this song. "I got my fist in my mouth, and my heart full of pride." That banjo is back for a strumming lament. "Am I safe here? How does it feel?"

GROUNDED: The high sound like The Edge on guitar, and the drum circle drumkit tom tom, bring in the a dark song that Bono would dance to. "I'm in trouble. Please don't wake my mother. I'm a bad girl. I'm a sinner. I count my blessings that I was born here." But she has a merciful heart. "I made a promise that I won't kill you…" Once again the story is a chapter in the Breech novel. There are all the details to set the drama in a tactile world. And the doot doot do do do mail chorus, the natives are restless drumming, and percussive guitar bring this song to the dance floor for a prideful stomp. "Gonna get my day… again!"

SABOTEUR: The drum beats an insistent 2 and 4, with the guitar pounding out a more complex rhythmic figure. "Once I let him love me, and I let him go so he won't suffer in the tumult of this wounded voice." Missy is a living femme fatale when she sings, "I have struggled. I have succumb. I've been chipped away and wounded 'cause I'm a saboteur. A consequence of being a saboteur. I ruin everything." She's the bombshell of a female whose fall is "gaining ambition as it strikes the earth. Not since Billy Zoom in his heyday has there been another Mike on guitar. These songs cut clean to the quick.

NO MORE: A sky saw, and the twinkle of randomized electronics over an insistent bass throb march up a short hill to the lookout of this rock warning. A piano stops time with the clock tock, but nothing stops the stomp of action on this battlefield. "Someone was breathing through the trees. I watched from above as their arms intermingled." There is danger in the forest. There are ghosts here. "There was comfort in the court, before the sun rose. We laughed at stories never funny before." I look over my shoulder at a noise behind me while listening to this song. "Someone was stirring through the leaves." The music sets a fearful tone, but Missy sings, "How it stings now, just as it stung before. Please don't be afraid no more. Don't be afraid no more."

All songs written by Missy Gibson and Mike Flanagan
Missy Gibson: vocals and percussion
Mike Flanagan: guitar , vox & bvox, baritone guitar, keyboards, clarinet, banjo accordion, additional bass & percussion
Don Hughes: drums and percussion, ruined autoharp, bvox
Ian Barstowe: bass


Dave Philips: Pedal Steel on Saboteur and Unrequited
Jen Cordoy: Cello
Rebecca Kaplan: Violin


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