Album Review: “Who Needs Who” by Dark Dark DarkBlog — By Josh Kimmel on October 30, 2012 at 3:00 am
Things either happen or they do not. People come into our lives or they do not. Our lovers enter our lives through a variety of means, they stay for various durations, and they leave us in many different ways. If any of us could be as cold as a Don DeLillo character, or if we could avoid attachments with Buddha-like consistency, we might not ever have our hearts broken. But we are not those kinds of people.
I have loved people for months and can barely recall the details, and I have spent a few hours with people that I will never forget. Some relationships have died months and years before we parted ways, and others simply ceased to exist without warning. Even for a day or a night, our loves help us to exterminate our loneliness.
Dark Dark Dark’s new album, Who Needs Who, is not an album for the comfortable in love. This is music for the brokenhearted, the downtrodden, the hopeless. Relationships die brutally and easily. The past is a lost home to which you can never return. The future, if not completely unimaginable, is at least thought to be a difficult journey. Nona Marie Invie’s voice and piano are lonely and broken. Who Needs Who blends together delicate piano, fragile female vocals, unexpected instruments, and a genre-bending style to explore Invie’s broken heart.
They say depression is either an inability to let go of the past, or else an irrational fear of the future. If that is true, then the first half of Who Needs Who could be diagnosed as clinically depressed. Invie cannot let go of the past. She wants something to change that cannot. The title track sets the stage for her depressive state, exploring the lies and failures that got her there. “Tell Me” is a superbly orchestrated song, with a piano-driven melody and muted, distorted guitars quietly filling out the sound à la Mazzy Star.
That said, the song “Patsy Cline” shines above the others on the first half of the album. This is an indie-pop love song with all the lyrical directness of a Loretta Lynn ballad. This is the song you might find stuck in your head days after listening to the album. The chorus goes, “I thought we’d meet up in a week or two / And we’d slow dance to Patsy Cline at the bar / But now that you’re gone / My life goes on.” It seems that Invie turns a corner here, no longer enslaved to the past, but moving forward.
Dark Dark Dark might be moving on, but the next song stays at the bar. “Without You” is a dark, smoky pub song. It’s played by a three piece with walking bass that goes down like scotch and cigars. Picture a chanteuse in a red dress making love to the microphone. “Without you, I’m a river my love / Without you I lose what is good to the sea / Without you, I’m a river my love / Wandering aimlessly.”
As if to mirror the aimlessness of Invie’s emotions, the album then turns searchingly in a number of directions. She goes home with someone for the night. She implores someone to search her history to figure out the secrets about herself that she cannot. She cries in the dark for help. These songs feel like the stages of grief. Now that she has let go of the past, and is unsure that there is a future, she feels alone in the world. Unfortunately, while this is the saddest part of the album, it also the slowest and, possibly, the least interesting.
“Meet in the Dark” is the best crafted song on the album, and turns away from the sadness to something new. This is like a song off of the soundtrack to movie Amelie, all sweet and beautiful on the piano. This is a forward-looking song, coming to terms with the loss and full of resignation that the future might be different. She starts to accept the passing of time and the loss of her love. Invie sings, “When you want everything to stay the same / Then things change / I will never get tired of singing these songs.”
The last track “The Great Mistake” is an anthem, shifting between minor and major keys. This is the culmination of all that Invie has learned throughout the rest of the album. She realizes that she is also to blame for the failure of her relationship. The listener never finds out the nature of her great mistake. (“You tried to take all of me / but the great mistake was mine.”) Strangely, the song turns upbeat at the end, which makes it seem like a bit of an inside joke that the listener doesn’t understand.
There are moments of beauty and undeniable sadness, and despite a few weak spots, the album works together well as whole. On Who Needs Who, Dark Dark Dark isn’t saying anything new, but they are saying it rather well. If the upbeat moments on the album are any indication of what else the band is capable of, we can only hope that they find love and happiness for their next release.