Murder by Death Plays Live

May 5th, 2010

Murder by Death – The Bowery Ballroom – May 4, 2010

Over the years, Murder by Death has honed its gothic noir punk-rock sound, carving out a niche genre of basically one. Last night’s Bowery Ballroom set had the Bloomington, Ind., quartet showcasing yet another step in its evolution as a band, playing a selection of songs from its newest release, Good Morning, Magpie, an album that once again starkly plays upon Americana influences, especially Johnny Cash. Driving such comparisons is frontman Adam Turla’s low-baritone range, which is similar to Cash’s.

After playing a few older songs, Murder by Death jumped into a run of new material, playing standout tracks “King of the Gutters, Prince of the Dogs,” “As Long as There Is Whiskey in the World” (leading to a loud crowd sing-along) and “On the Dark Streets Below.” Although the audience swayed and sang songs old and new—and even moshed for a few—it was “Brother” and “Spring Break 1899” that had the most drinks in the air. One of Murder by Death’s best qualities, other than its penchant for writing songs about zombies, the devil, and drinking whiskey, is its lush instrumentation, which once again draws on its Americana roots. Having an electric cello player instead of a bassist, Murder by Death is already rather unique, but last night they added a keyboard, an accordion and a trumpet, which took the band’s on-record sound perfectly into the live setting. —Kirsten Housel