Ellen Cook's Bang Bang Bang Mixes Instrumental Sophistication with Lyrical Unpredictability



Ellen the Felon Bang Bang Bang ellenthefelon.net

On the cover of her new album Ellen Cook stands astride the top of a burning upright piano as if it were the prow of a ship. It's a fitting image -- part phoenix and part firestarter, Cook shows great range on Bang Bang Bang within the seemingly limited palette of a piano trio. In this case, her trio is rounded out by Matthew Reyland, who plays drums with jazz cadences and rock velocity, and Abbie Hainz Steiling, whose violin amplifies the gypsy cabaret that was present in Cook's earliest performances.

For the first full-length as Ellen the Felon, Cook doesn't wear a persona so much as a closetful of identities. Opening cut "Crazy Psycho" gives one such personality, but stick with the album through that cutesy cartoon to experience Cook as a nightlife chronicler, romantic stalker, avenging force, sister-in-arms and dutiful daughter. Cook has described her piano style as being driven by a heavy left hand, and that bluesy, syncopated style marks many of these tracks, from the light tango of "Oh Timothy" to the stride-boogie of "Chaos." Her voice can match her ever-changing moods; she sometimes sounds like Betty Boop at the end of a Busch beer bender, but when the material goes for some emotional depth, Cook's voice follows suit.

But the fun of Bang Bang Bang is seeing when she chooses to deploy her various poses. That Cook melds the visceral nature of "Bang Bang Bang" -- a song that looks at vengeful murder with clinical clarity -- with the gentle lope of a wedding march is further proof of both her perversity and control. "Slana Singa (Mom Song)" is a more ruminative song about loss, one that shows strength and an exposed emotional core. Closing track "Temple," with its whirring synth oscillations and plucky harpsichord arpeggios, suggests a new twist on Cook's instrumentation, though her well-tempered clavier doesn't affect the vitriol that pops up elsewhere on the LP. That mix of instrumental sophistication, lyrical unpredictability and light crassness is a key tension on the album, and it displays Cook's many nuances.

Ellen the Felon Record Release 9 p.m. Friday, November 15. St. Louis Skatium, 120 East Catalan Street. $10. 314-631-3922.

Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130. Email music@riverfronttimes.com for more information.


The 15 Most Ridiculous Band Promo Photos Ever "Where Did My Dick Go?" The Gathering of the Juggalos' Best Overheard Quotations I Pissed Off Megadeth This Week, My (Former) Favorite Band The Top Ten Ways to Piss Off Your Bartender at a Music Venue


Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.