The Black Heart Procession 

Amore del Tropico
/touch&go; 2002/

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In my opinion, Three was a masterpiece and one of the greatest albums released recently. As a consequence, I was eager to listen to Black Heart Procession’s fourth album. I have to admit that I was a bit reluctant to play this album because a lot of people said that Black Heart Procession had changed their style and had made a salsa album. I think that these people only listened to the first song on the album which is in fact vaguely bossanova-oriented. Indeed, ‘Tropics of Love’ is a great song to dance to but it does not represent the whole album. There are guiro parts here and there but is this enough to call it a salsa album ?? (a guiro is a little wooden instrument that you rub with a stick to make a rhythmic sound). There are songs which may remind you of Calexico quiet songs (without the mariachis), is that relevant to call it a salsa album ?? Of course not.

I don’t know if Amore Del Tropico is a concept album but I’m sure that it is a good album. It is quite different from the previous one soberly entitled Three which was a brilliantly depressive collection of dismal dirges. The title itself disrupts the numerical continuation which The Procession had adopted for their funereal albums. This new one is more jaunty from time to time (‘Tropics of Love’s bossanova groove which opens the album, “Fingerprints” is a strange song for BHP because there is an unusual crooner voice and a warm atmosphere increased by the female back voices) but Black Heart Procession particular piano/guitar atmosphere of dolefulness and sorrow is still alive (“the waiter n°4”, “A Cry for Love”, “The Invitation”, “The visitor”) and Pall Jenkins’ fetish instrument – the saw- is fortunately still there in the arrangements. “A Sign on the Road” is a marvelous sad song which is particularly reminiscent of Three (notably because of the male back voice). On most of the songs, there are back voices which contribute to convey a languid and sultry dimension (in particular: “tropics of Love”, “Sympathy Crime”, “A Cry For Love”, “Fingerprints”).

‘Tropics of Love’ rhythm introduces you to the hot place where the characters ‘left their hearts’. ‘Broken World’ might remind you of Calexico’s ballads but its arrangements are much more refined and it definitely has this BHP aspect (thanks to the piano probably). Behind the apparent relaxation (emphasized by guiro rhythms), the guitars and drums convey a bittersweet emotion (which is underlined by the first words “I know that you are through with me, I know that you want to get rid of me). “Did you wonder” has a groovy rhythm too but it differs from ‘Tropics of Love’ insofar as it is not a bossanova song but an indie rock one with a lively piano part. The vocals and the lyrics bring an edgy dimension, which perfectly matches with the music (“Did you ever wonder why we bother so ?”). “Sympathy Crime” deals with a murder with its strange 70’s prog sound (which makes me think of Pink Floyd) and this is emphasized by the next song (‘The Visitor’) in which a corpse is described (“You bleed, you blister in the sun…”). The last song entitled “The One Who Has Disappeared” is a quiet sad song and its lyrics are rather beautiful: “I’m the one who has disappeared – when I write my name no words appear”. The culprit suffers…

Amore Del Tropico is different from the previous Black Heart Procession full-lengths because its atmosphere is warmer. In fact, the word ‘Tropico’ is a key to the album: imagine a warm weather on the verge to giving way to a hot rain. I think this is a concept album dealing with a broken love, the murder of a loved one and the flee of the murderer (there’s also a drawing of a dead bleeding woman in the sleeve poster). Everything being played with the help of this tremendous saw… Amore Del Tropico is certainly one of the best melancholy albums released this year.


/oct 15th 2002/