Handsome Family Sings Wryly of Life’s Many Absurdities
As obsessed as the Handsome Family is with death and human ruin, the Chicago duo’s Tuesday performance at the Fold at the Silverlake Lounge had moments of subtle, if weird, beauty.
Drawing from their fourth album, “In the Air,” as well as earlier recordings, married songwriters Brett and Rennie Sparks illuminated the sweet absurdity of life with wry, Gothic country-folk tales about moon-loving milkmen and inevitably doomed romance. If the hourlong set got a little samey, it was worth hearing just for the jolt of such lilting numbers as “A Beautiful Thing,” a love song that was at once cynical, honest and mournful.
Delivering his wife’s confessional, stream-of-consciousness poetry in a resonant baritone that underscored the profound foolishness of it all, Brett at times recalled a postmodern Hank Williams or some long-lost Appalachian crooner. However, the lyrics were too eccentric to be mistaken for real old-fashioned folk, although Rennie’s between-song chatter offered glimmers of insight into what seemed a naturally tweaked viewpoint.
This offbeat charm was lost on some audience members, who yakked so loudly at the bar that the more numerous rapt listeners had to crowd closer to the stage in order to absorb the music’s full effect. Fortunately, Brett’s brother Darrell Sparks contributed an extra guitar and backing vocals to the duo’s usually minimal backdrop, which also included bass, autoharp, washboard and drum machine.