Review: Kevin Tihista’s Red Terror – On This Dark Street
Published on March 20th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Perhaps best remembered for his 2001 album Don’t Breathe a Word, Californian singer/songwriter Tihista, formerly of Triple Fast Action and Veruca Salt, returns from a seven-year hiatus blighted by “personal, financial and musical difficulties” with a record that fully deserves to attract renewed acclaim.
Tihista’s smooth, milky and carefully enunciated vocals feel endearingly geeky, like a lank-haired 1970s geography teacher singing a folk protest song, and this seemingly innocent exterior sure packs a punch when it conceals lines like, on really rather beautiful opener “Taking it to the Streets (Again)”, “There’s a million reasons why she is leaving / Number one, she hates the fact that I’m breathing / Not to mention all the drugging and drinking / Well, to me that’s just a typical evening”, just one early example of this album’s glittering away of darkly wry lyrical show-stoppers.
“Bats” is an instant classic, a bitter-sweet melting pot of The Clientele, Elliott Smith and Shack, not to mention the proud owner of the addictive refrain “I give her one good reason to stay here / She gives me two good reasons to leave”, while “Jack K” balances out its spine-tingling air of gloom with such gems as “I’m sorry that I ripped the cover off your Jack Kerouac novel / But I had to blow my nose / I had to blow my nose” and “Somewhere around Santa Cruz County / I was forced to throw out your cassette / I know you think Dylan’s a genius / But that doesn’t justify two plays on the deck”.
Stately, Pavement-meets-The-Band march “North Carolina” could be a hit in some parallel universe where ending a chorus with “I’m gonna have to just kill you both” wouldn’t preclude it from becoming so, and the album then takes a turn for the gently melancholic before exploding back with the sad, sinister but certainly memorable “Don’t Let Him In” (sample lyric: “He forced his way inside, promising presents / I know I should have refused, but god knows I like presents”).
Closer “Country Road” provides another highlight, a plinky-banjo’d, Kinks-ian trot that provides a welcome change of pace, notably ending a melodically sweet-toothed yet lyrically acerbic record with “oh, everything will be okay”. On This Dark Street is in the main several classes above ‘okay’; it’s a classy, witty and luxurious return from a songwriter with a rare and precious knack for successfully combining the humorous with the heartfelt. Fans of Morrissey and Malkmus apply within.
Rocksucker says: Eight Quails out of Ten!