The Handsome Family, 'Honey Moon' (Carrot Top)

Critical Mass
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by Jon Young

The songs are an effortless blend of vintage country and pre-rock'n'roll pop, but New Mexico's Handsome Family are no cutesy nostalgia act. On their eighth album, spouses Brett and Rennie Sparks continue to put a brilliantly surreal twist on everyday subjects, using nature imagery to evoke the weird intensity of all-consuming passions. Although Brett's drunken 3 A.M. crooning occasionally verges on goofy (see "The Loneliness of Magnets"), the lyrics can be downright disturbing, as in "Darling, My Darling," where he tells a lover, "Gnaw me down to my wings."

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