Music

To Cure and to Kill

Two Sides of the Veils

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Not long after the ghost of Jeff Buckley floated down the mighty Mississippi River, people were anxious to crown a new alt-rock falsetto'd frontman to take his place. It's just another cruel aspect of the music industry, refusing to let a deceased musician's body grow cold before thrusting a newer/younger artist into their old boots. For the Veils' Finn Andrews, the Buckley throne was all but his. Like Jeff, Finn's father was a well-respected musician of bold integrity: Barry Andrew of XTC and Shriekback. His vocal range was equally stunning, and his high cheek-boned male model looks didn't hurt things.

The stage was set for Andrews and the Veils with 2004's The Runaway Found, a magnificent debut of grandiose twisted folk-pop that focused on little more than crippling levels of regret and hope. But two short months after its release, Andrews dismantled the band and fled London for his childhood home of New Zealand. Breakups don't get any more sudden than that, and although he promised new material and a new lineup, it was hard to place your trust in a guy who could abandon such a wonderful record with such blunt quickness.

But sure enough, album number two (2006's Nux Vomica) was released, and its impact was far greater than its predecessor—reason being that Andrews has grown into his role as a vocal howler, a singer who bends and tugs on each dangling word to stretch them out far beyond their intended nature. Much like Nick Cave, Finn bellows with great confidence and rigid sexuality, plus a liberal dose of theatrics thrown into the mix as well.

"Advice for Young Mothers to Be," the best of the many potential singles on Nux Vomica, is a rollicking look at spiritual doubt, as told by a female protagonist. "The vicar said it's wrong, but hey, what does he know?/He said it's wrong but that the Lord forgave me/Well, I don't want his pity and your scorn/Boy, why you preaching, no one is listening anymore," before peaking with the line, "No man alive has earned the right to save me."

When not addressing the myths above, Andrews lets loose with the dramatic "Not Yet," in which he proclaims, "It looks an ugly world out there/Of girl-guides and disease and war/I love my little velvet bed/ I never want to leave it anymore." A bit prissy, perhaps, but it's excusable when you consider the delicate voice for which the words originate. Plus, no matter your personal orientation, you'd be lying if you said you weren't interested in an invitation to Andrews' "little velvet bed."

Nux Vomica takes its name from a Southeast Asian tree that is known for being both extremely poisonous and an important source of homeopathic remedies. Between causing violent convulsions and curing gastric disorders, the tree can save, or end, your life. This dichotomy also applies—although on a far less visceral scale—to the record, which is as inviting as it is difficult. Andrews wears this contraction well, seeming genuinely disinterested in being the next heir to some fallen pop-idol throne, and instead preferring to build his own legacy from the ground up. He's well on his way.

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