There's something refreshingly suave about Timber Timbre. Where so many retro-Americana acts play up the image of either the grizzled, road-hardened troubadours or the sinister backwoodsmen, the Quebecois trio come over — on this album at least — as the gloriously slick lounge lizards you know you should beware of but really want to hang out with. It starts with Taylor Kirk's voice: a velvety rock 'n' roll croon with the occasional authentic rockabilly hiccup, it's boyishly seductive enough to be able to sing of "peeping bone-eyed butchers," of having "done some truly awful things," of indulging in a "Bad Ritual" — and make all of them sound like fun.
The arrangements, too, hark back to the 1950s, but not just to rock and country. Throughout these sinister waltzes and edgy ballads are rippling hints of exotica, delicate flute lines and keening strings that speak of tiki bars, cigarette holders and bachelor pads — while the discordant instrumentals "Swamp Magic" and "Souvenirs" suggest the most tense moments in half-remembered black-and-white b-movies. It could all be tremendously kitsch and tacky, but there's such a commitment to it that like early Tom Waits, or like some of the recent Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan recordings, while you know there's huge dramatic artifice going on, it's hard not to be drawn into the sleazy bar-room glamour of it all. The songwriting itself is not always sophisticated; these are more a series of tableaux, of grooves over which the theatre of good whisky, bad women and terrible urges is acted out. But the delivery and arrangements are so brilliantly realised that you'll find yourself swept up in it — it's an album that really demands to be absorbed as a whole as you sink into its weird night-hawk's world.