For the third consecutive year, Chris Connelly has celebrated his birthday with a new solo album release. Recorded in the months preceding the 2020 lockdowns and created in cooperation with producer/musician Chris Bruce, Graveyard Sex is one of the artist’s leanest offerings with 10 tracks clocking in at 36 minutes.
Both the opening title track and “Silk Balune” are pure Connelly art rock, the acoustic guitars striking with sharp hooks mirrored by the orchestral flourishes and his signature wavering baritone croon, the short shocks of drums on both tracks like distant gunshots as the brief passages of distorted guitar and the dissonant interplay of major and minor keys keep things just a bit on edge. More melodically pleasing, though no less artsy is “Mesmerido” with its fluid bass line and barely restrained emotive vocal performance, the brassy fanfares and sustained guitar lead adding an anthemic quality to what is ultimately one of the record’s catchiest moments. The rapid fire handclaps and shuffling acoustic rhythm of “Infinite Last Wish” bear a strange Mariachi-like quality as the subtle waves of keyboards and chanting background vocals keep the track in a strange vibe amid mantra-like repetitions of “Come in, but don’t close the door” and “To die in lost eclipse,” Connelly’s Bowie-esque vocal acrobatics really soaring, while the saccharine vocal harmonies and warbling keyboard pads of “The Hypnotic Stand-by” evoke the dreamy post-Beatles rock stylings of Pink Floyd prior to Dark Side of the Moon. Other tracks like “The Heart Has to Ache Before It Learns to Beat” and “Looking For a Coda” are more electronic with their flutters of bouncy synth tones and spectral ambient passages, the latter song especially whimsical and aptly titled as it concludes the album as an almost literary lament with lines like “It has to be more of a lifeline to rusted shores” and “Fleeting cliffs like they’re curtains / before you even start.” Believe me, Mr. Connelly… it is enough of a coda.
Although not a dramatic departure from his usual output, there is a brevity and accessibility to Graveyard Sex that belies the intricacy of his arrangements; the album is less nebulous and noisy than the last few releases, though no less intense in lyrical subject matter and especially Connelly’s vocal performance. For an artist as prolific as Chris Connelly, it’s a thrill to hear an album like Graveyard Sex proving that he can keep bedazzling his audience so thoroughly.