Whitehorse's album cover for The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss
On Melissa McClelland‘s song Picture Postcard, from 2004, she tells the story of a criminal running away to Mexico with a girl he meets along the way. It’s a fantasy she has since grown into by joining forces with musical (and real-life) husband Luke Doucet on a twangy wild-west collaboration that is more an adventure than merely a record. Since flirting with the western tavern sounds on 2006’s Passenger 24 and firing things up even more with Glenrio in 2009, Melissa has all the practice she needs to deliver her half of the spicy duo, coupled with Luke’s crunchy guitar. The sound is a romanticized harmony from a pair who, when started, don’t look back.
The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss starts off with a showdown between Luke and Melissa in Achilles’ Desire, eyeing each other for the first time as they compare their reactions. Luke starts: “I don’t have much but I got the good stuff/I keep it tucked away where you can find it/if you got the guts,” followed by Melissa: “I don’t know why but you make me sweat/when trouble comes calling I’m packing my bags for the west.” Before the end of the song, they are so in sync that they sound incredibly natural together, turning two separate vocals into one lavish voice. A sound that continues on into the next track Devil’s Got A Gun, where they are squaring off with the devil in a song about making a run for it, “I’m never going back/I’m running from the sun/bullets at my heels/devil’s got a gun.”
One of the more notable aspects of the record are the distinct hooks provided by Luke’s guitar that seep out before the lyrical melodies make themselves known. In Peterbilt Coalmine, the simple guitar intro is further distributed throughout the song, semi-independent over the beat but almost irresistible. With Jane, it’s more subtle as the pair sing over an electronic drum beat which carries the song through to the end.
The record predominately features both Luke and Melissa singing together but there are instances where one falls back while the other leads the song, Melissa on Cold July, Out Like A Lion and No Glamour In The Hammer and Luke on Radiator Blues and Annie Lu. In Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song), they trade back and forth in the style of a duet love song, finishing each other’s sentences with lines like “Will I remember to remember that without you/I’m a shadow of a drifter & a barfly & whatever else you had to be.”
The spotlight never falls on either one individually so while the album is Melissa and Luke, the sound is of one pair. Like some famous pairs of wild west outlaws, Belle and Sam Starr, or Bonnie and Clyde, Melissa and Luke work best when they’re together. Achilles’ Desire, Devil’s Got A Gun and Wisconsin have them singing side-by-side, also sounding more fitting than most musical couples.
As a record likely made to supplement Whitehorse’s live act, which they have brought across Canada several times, they once again prove they are on to something with this new collaborative project following last year’s self-titled EP (reviewed here). Moving forward in a more clear direction with this record, Whitehorse and their followers will be in for a wild ride.
1. Achilles’ Desire
2. Devil’s Got A Gun
3. Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song)
4. Peterbilt Coalmine
5. Cold July
7. Out Like A Lion
8. No Glamour In The Hammer
9. Radiator Blues
10. Annie Lu
12. Mexico Texaco