Imagine Swordfishtrombones-era Tom Waits, dragged through the gutter, dragged through '70s punk, then dropped off down at the shipyards for pirates to piss on. Finding company with contemporaries Man Man and Deer Tick, Brooklyn's unruly O'Death plays an American music that's unhinged and ablaze, full of folk fury, gospel glory and punk pyromania.
The most recent album by the band -- made up of vocalist/guitarist Greg Jamie, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Gabe Darling, fiddle player Bob Pycior, bassist Newman and drummer David Rogers-Berry -- is Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin, which tackles issues of salvation, community and death. O'Death released Broken Hymns late last year, following up 2007's rousing Head Home.
"After Head Home, we only wrote three songs that year," says Rogers-Berry. "By the end of that year, I was like, 'I don't know if I can do this project. This is making me really crazy and sick and I don't like it.' As soon as we started writing new music again, I was like, 'That's why we have this band. Playing music is the only thing that matters to me.'"
"There's a catharsis in what we're trying to do musically on this album," says Jamie. "We're all trying to get through things with this music. We're trying to use music as a means of healing." In November 2007, Rogers-Berry's fiancée died of an aneurysm, and the group canceled all touring plans at the time; the album is dedicated to her memory.
From its gypsy violins and gang-shouted vocals to its junk-pile percussion, Broken Hymns finds O'Death ferocious. The band's bringing the tunes back to the live setting, a spectacle which shouldn't be missed; they're playing 31st Street this Friday alongside cow-punk roustabouts Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers. (The show is organized by CP contributor Manny Theiner.)
O'Death with Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers and The Red Western. 9 p.m. Fri., Feb. 13. 31st St. Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $12 ($14 at the door). 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com