What’s in a band name? And what, if anything, does it say about the artist? Take the band Evans the Death, for example. What would you surmise about the band’s sound from such a name? It hints at something dark and otherworldly, but the name is actually a Dylan Thomas reference: Evans the Death share their name with the undertaker (hence “the Death” part) in Thomas’ Under Milk Wood radio drama and stage play, so perhaps folk, or baroque pop. In actuality, it’s none of the above, which is only one aspect of a band that’s surprisingly multifaceted.
According to their main songwriter, Dan Moss, the band “borrowed stuff from any of the pop music” of their youth and didn’t fixate on current musical trends when recording their self-titled debut album. These influences play out in the guitars on the single “Threads”, blending New Wave rhythms with punk pop and My Bloody Valentine-esque walls of sound across two minutes of exuberant discordance.
Traces of Pixies and Elastica enter the mix on “I’m So Unclean”, but like “Threads” before it, it amounts to more than just a typical throwback. And lyrically, Evans the Death focuses on everyday mundanity with a sardonic outlook akin to Jarvis Cocker. At its core, Evans the Death is both familiar and all over the place. This absence of attachment to any single retro style, in addition to an urgent energy that prevails throughout the album’s 30 minutes, allows it to sound surprisingly fresh.
Katherine Whitaker’s vocals may be the true standout on the record. Her delivery exhibits a touch of Chrissie Hynde, especially on “Telling Lies”, where Whitaker skillfully commands melodic shifts across soaring choruses with power and confidence. Despite moments like those, which make the album highly likable and excellent on paper, what’s most surprising about Evans the Death is that it doesn’t quite make that lasting impression that allows a good record to cross the threshold to greatness. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable listen for anyone yearning for fuzzed-out power pop.
Essential Tracks: “Telling Lies”, “Threads”