The Upshot: Songwriter and author Willy Vlautin is obsessed by loners and losers, those who live in the shadows and struggle to come to grips with their sad circumstances.
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
“I can’t believe it’s true/You’re fucking that guy you used to,” Willy Vlautin sings on “Two Friends Lost At Sea,” which, ironically, turns out to be one of the more upbeat offerings on Richmond Fontaine darkly titled You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To. By now, fans of the band understand that sobriety and a dour disposition are part and parcel of Richmond Fontaine’s MO, a fact borne out by a series of novels the multi-talented Vlautin has authored over the years. Whether in story or song, Vlautin is obsessed by loners and losers, those who live in the shadows and struggle to come to grips with their sad circumstances.
Whether reflecting on the fractured upbringing described in the ironic “I Can’t Black Out If Wake Up and Remember” or describing the plight of a trio of wayward, tattered siblings on “Three Brothers Roll Into Town,” or merely moaning wordlessly on “The Blind Horse,” Richmond Fontaine make the most of dire circumstance, given their harrowing narratives that offer little hope and only gaunt ambitions. Their brand of gothic Americana is the opposite of easy listening, but once heard, these tenuous tales are hard to forget. The austere ambiance creates a lingering effect that burrows into the brain — harsh, haunting and flush with striking aural imagery. Dire and descriptive, You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To numbing melancholia is uncommonly compelling.
DOWNLOAD: “Three Brothers Roll Into Town,” “Two Friends Lost At Sea,” “I Can’t Black Out If Wake Up and Remember”