Vic Chesnutt, Elf Power, and the Amorphous Strums: Dark DevelopmentsMusic Reviews Vic Chesnutt
Southern Gothic mysteriousness meets psych-rock to splendid results
With his meandering intonation, lyrics and sense of meter, Vic Chesnutt is a singer-songwriter who is seemingly best served by a solo album
—or at least with a few supportive but firmly-in-the-background instrumental players. It’s odd, then, that the best of his dozen solo albums is The Salesman and Bernadette, a collaborative project with Lambchop. A kindred wandering spirit, perhaps?
Dark Developments features an equally billed Elf Power, the Elephant Six psych-rock band that, like Chesnutt, has strong connections to Athens, Ga. In fact, the album was recorded there (in Chesnutt’s attic studio) by Chesnutt and Elf bassist Derek Almstead. If it isn’t Salesman’s equal, both in musical power and song quality, it’s still better suited to Chesnutt than some of his recent solo albums.
The band gives a rootsy, gently spacey and slightly eccentric lift to Chesnutt’s songs, like a straightforward late-’60s folk group that’s been turned on to electric rock and become both more playful and more soulful. The effect is vocal as much as it is instrumental, as in the echoed way they sing and chant on “We Are Mean.” Meanwhile, the Elf crew gives angry bluesy muscle to “Little Fucker” and rollicking good-time humor to “Bilocating Dog.”