Label: Where It's At Is Where You Are Records Release date: 08/11/10 Link: Official Site Buy: Amazon There’s nothing ecclesiastical about folkster band The Vatican Cellars other than their fascination with death. Actually, I’d be hard pressed to call their vaguely existential lyrics ecclesiastical, favouring a descriptor like “Gothic-tragedy-type” before the word in question. A similar mental dichotomy exists in general after spending some time with The Same Crooked Worm, questioning this time about the nature of the band and the compositions within themselves – transcending mere concern about lyrical subjects and topical triflings within. Something within desires for what is currently presented, the other present desire for something more almost failing in its fleeting attempts to drown my own wants, a struggle that, admittedly, taints my opinion of this album slightly. What cannot be ignored, however, is the plain fact that there is something at least gleaming with promise for the Cellars. Now to get past some of the other aspects at work here…. First off, this is pretty pure folk instrumentation at work here, limited kick and cymbals, both bowed and pizzicato bass, ‘cello swells in place of second guitar (save for some moments of rather pleasant clean tone work), and a nice array of vocals that are as earnestly homespun as they are cloyingly upbeat in the face of their tragic message. But for all the heavy-handedness there are a few rays of “sun” that break through, with old stalwart “happy sounds” like the glockenspiel (natch) working their way in to the very fiber of ‘Old Books’ and closer ‘Lullaby.’ When they use it on ‘The Wreck Of Alba,’ they manage to hit the right place for an ominous tone, though a tad misplaced when they have a melodica at their command. However, you can only stomach so many death songs before simply wanting the bereft wallowing to be over. Yet again, there’s an antithesis at work here – the songwriting itself. The secret weapon is the simple yet effective use of their limited instrumentation, limited song sections, even limited tempii, a bizarrely delicate mix of twee vocal styling’s and upfront coffeehouse “guitar and a microphone” musings. One may be tempted to say that the songs could be discounted to some degree for just being about sadness and various other forms of misery, a point of contention here given the backings and use of lightness in the right places (‘My Black Pearl’ comes to mind). Ultimately there’s nothing here too grandiose or too terrible. It’s slightly above average due to the musicianship at work here. Each instrument is well balanced and placed in the overall soundscape and structure of the songs within. No big fuss, but nothing too terrible by any means. If they can get past the morbidity of their lyrics and continue to at least keep up their well placed sense of instrumentation and tasteful (if not somewhat innocuously “flat”) production, they may transform slightly into something genuinely good. Photobucket