Good news for people who like Nick Cave but have over-played every Nick Cave record: Bambara are back. The trio have long been compared to the gothfather and his murder ballads, and despite its name, their new album, Stray, keeps to this menacing track. From the stalking, ominous bassline of album opener ‘Miracle’ to closer ‘Machete’’s marching beat and psychopathic lyrics, Bambara’s third album is awash with darkness.
Stray is assembled almost like a collection of short stories, with the brothers Bateh and William Brookshire seizing the opportunity to show off their narrative skills. With influences ranging from Leonard Cohen to French noir and Southern Gothic writers like Flannery O’Connor, the trio’s lyrics blend the surreal and sublime, the romantic and the deeply twisted. As a ‘for instance’, the blackly humorous ‘Death Croons’ sees the reaper fend off an ardent prospective lover as he continues to amass a collection of his victims’ remains in the boot of his car. Elsewhere, album highlight and recent single ‘Serafina’ explores a pyromaniac love story, with deceptively simple lyrics building into a poetic, distinctly Southern narrative. Then there’s ‘Sing Me to the Street’, its atmosphere more funeral dirge than rock song with dragging, defeated vocals and mentions of murdered babies.
On album number three, Bambara have gotten heavier than ever. Stray is ice cold, and sharp as a knife’s edge.