It’s hard not to be drawn into The Beauty Shop, the Americana band based out of Champaign, Illinois. John Hoeffleur’s weathered twang and disarming baritone has a sound of the wild, yet woeful — gracefully falling somewhere between Beck and Johnny Cash. This three piece band (Hoeffleur on guitar/vocals, Ariane Peralta on bass, and Ben Ucherek on drums) released their first album in 2002 (Yr Money or Yr Life), drawing comparisons with the likes of Nick Cave and Violent Femmes.
As they stepped into the studio again, The Beauty Shop came out with even edgier sound bytes – Crisis Helpline is a country-noir collection that’s simple in its production yet complex in its lyricism. Wowing audiences in the UK for years before its release in January 2007 (Shoeshine Records) in the states, this CD effortlessly enthralls us no matter how darkly despairing its tales may be.
“Paper Hearts for Josie” is Crash Test Dummies-style – only much better. A melodic snippet of middle America at first listen, (“passed out underneath the disco ball/that you got from Spencer’s at the shopping mall..”) but within the understated guitar and drum work are heady lyrics filled with the wear and tear of despondency. The first UK single, “Monster” is a sound engine that accelerates into a crescendo of guitar riffs, while “The Love I Could Not Save” is four minutes of raw, drawl-drenched emotion. In this slow-burning ballad, Hoeffleur bears his regretful soul in a starkly simple yet undeniably beautiful melody. It’s hard to believe that only three instruments created the psychobilly sound emanating from “Hatchet Job” and even harder to believe that under the Sheryl Crow-like introduction to the lively “Rumplestiltskin” lies a frightening fairytale of Columbine.
It’s easy to overlook the dark heart at the core of Crisis Helpline, but don’t be fooled…under the tasty pieshell of some beautiful sounds lies a deep, dark slice of life that Hoeffleur serves up so perfectly.