Letters To Cleo – Aurora Gory Alice – Review

Letters to Cleo

Aurora Gory Alice (CherryDisc)
by Laura Kallio
photos by Trevor Whitaker

Letters to Cleo‘s first full-length CD leaves you distracted. A little confused. And yet, it remains comfortable, accessible. Hanley’s vocals travel from innocent, child-like tenderness to raw rage and back again without missing a beat. And then there’s the hard-hitting, rapid-fire delivery of “Here and Now” and “I See.”

Somehow, the ten songs on Aurora Gory Alice flow through the ever-changing vocal elements as well as variations between serious funk, folk, a poppy dance groove, psychedelia, Nirvanaesque distortion, and even a sort of twangy hoedown thang. And lately, they’ve mixed in a heavier, border-line metal sound, which is on display most notably in the song “Rim Shak.” Through it all – all the style changes, all the overlapping – LTC maintains a rare sort of anti-commercial grace. “It’s the mix of the band,” Eisenstein has said. “There is not a preconceived sound; it’s different.”

It’s this distinct sound that transcends categorization by incorporating so many different styles at once that has made LTC such a popular live act over the past year or so. It’s this and Hanley’s supremely confident stage presence, which, once again, is rife with juxtaposition. She romps around stages with a nonchalant air that suggests she’s not quite sure just how she got there, and meanwhile, delivers the most honest and heartfelt lyrics in a voice technically superior to most in Boston. In addition, the appealing contradictory nature of LTC isn’t hurt by the fact that a petite, and yet immensely powerful woman, is fronting an otherwise all male band.

For a long time, Bostonians wondered why LTC hadn’t been signed to a major label. Even more surprising – why was their recording limited to Sister, LTC’s independently released 1991 cassette, and a two-song CherryDisc 7 inch released earlier this year? As Eisenstein put it last April, “We haven’t been taken to dinner by any record-company people. They haven’t even bought us a Coke yet.”

LTC had however managed to garner lots of nominations in WFNX Music Polls and in other awards categories, last year they received a publishing deal with New York’s Famous Music Publishing, and in March, the band took on a fairly extensive and successful tour. These successes, despite (until now) their lack of recorded material and their lack of label support, speaks volumes. The band’s ever-growing fan base will surely sing a collective hallelujah with LTC’s it’s-about-time signing to CherryDisc and the resulting full-length CD which showcases all the power, energy, and unique expression we’ve come to love in the band’s live performances.

Definitely pick up a copy and check this band out in an intimate local setting while you still can.

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