The opener of A Thousand Shark’s Teeth , “Inside A Boy”, starts where the band left things on their 2006 debut Bring Me the Workhorse. Propelled by a thumping bass line and lightning-storm swirls of strings, it’s typical Diamond music—equal parts chaos and beauty—with lines that could have been scratched out of Workhorse‘s “Golden Star.” (Last time we got “I rest my head inside the crook of your arm/And I feel like, a golden star—exploding”; this time we get “We are stars colliding/Now we crash like lightning into love.”) Shark’s Teeth may have been originally conceived as a string quartet piece (whereas Workhorse was relatively straightforward indie rock) but it ends up reading more as an attempt to strip away, rather than fix, the problems of the first record. It polishes the Diamond formula rather than take the band (lead by the beautiful, operatic voice and songwriting of Shara Worden) in any new emotional direction.
My Brightest Diamond has always had a flair for melodrama, and while its debut had a bad habit of lapsing into ineffective and gratuitous sob stories (which were only ineffective, really, because the entire album was nothing but sob stories about dead animals and memories of childhood), this record swaps that pin-pointed storytelling for epic songs. “Ice & The Storm” and “From the Top of the World” especially benefit from the change, while the several others drown in their newfound atmosphere.
Strip away too much of Worden’s knack for the specifics of despair, and, while we’re still left with a handful of beautiful and desperate sonic landscapes (see “To Pluto’s Moon”) we are not left with much to take to heart. The key flaw of A Thousand Shark’s Teeth is that it fails to expand Worden’s range of emotions and to encompass more than destitution; it just strips the bleak palette of the first album of its intent and purpose—of its human beings, dragonflies, and workhorses. The aimlessness of songs like the wilting “If I Were Queen” and the careening “Apples,” for example, are no substitute for My Brightest Diamond’s previous lovely precociousness.
Which leaves us with an album that still works as go-down-easy indie rock. Teeth is beautiful, textured, and more than competent, but fails to make the emotional connection that made the band’s previous work (despite its flaws) so precious. Ultimately, this record is little more than a few moments of spiraling beauty (“Inside a Boy”, “Ice & The Storm,” “From the Top of the World”) surrounded by the evidence of what happens when you forget to write songs that really mean something and work too hard polishing a formula that already worked pretty well. It won’t work any better until Worden expands and learns how to write songs come in more than one shade.
Timothy Zila is a pop music critic for Patrol
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