The Handsome Family - Milk and Scissors

by Rob Taylor Rating:10 Release Date:

Perhaps while the theme song to True Detective, 'Far From Any Road', is still fresh in the minds of watchers of that bleak and compelling drama, its timely to reflect upon the authors of the fiery track, The Handsome Family, whose lengthy career may have passed completely over many of you.

The Handsome Family are originally from Chicago, Illnois, but are now based in New Mexico, closer to the heart of the music they compose, namely southern gothic country-folk. Their warped, hilarious, ironic, sarcastic but ultimately perceptive lyrics are set to music which might contain folk, maybe traditional country, fuzzed-out indie guitar, organ, saxophone, stomping percussion including steel-drums, impeccable whistling, and always at the helm are Brett Sparks, a droll but very talented baritone, and his wife, Rennie, whose sweet but characterful voice lends an Appalachian charm to the music.

A great place to start is the album Milk and Scissors from 1996. The tracks 'Winnebago Skeletons' and 'The Dutch Boy', also with the fabulous steel-drums, will appeal to indie fans with a liking for great minor and major guitar chord variants. Ultimately though, it's the dark wit in the lyrics, combined with the incongruous sweetness about the music, that will challenge your perceptions, and have you revelling in the Sparks' cynicism. 

'Drunk By Noon' is by far and away one of the funniest but acerbic songs I've ever heard. Here are the lyrics reproduced -  

"There once was a poodle who thought he was a cowboy, but he lived in a cage the size of his thumb.

 

And, though his white horse was a box of toothpicks, he galloped around until hit by a car.

 

Sometimes I flap my arms like a hummingbird just to remind myself I'll never fly.

 

Sometimes I burn my arms with cigarettes just to pretend I won't scream when I die.

 

Sometimes I can't wait to come down with cancer. At least then I'll get to watch tv all day.

 

And on my deathbed I'll get all the answers even if all my questions are taken away.

 

If my life was as long as the moon's, I'd still be jealous of the sun. If my life lasted only one day, I'd still be drunk by noon"

 

Tongue firmly prodding cheek. The Handsome Family deserve new fans.

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