Vic Chesnutt has always seemed like a carnival barker with sad venom in his heart. He entices us to come into the freak show, but it’s never clear if he’s revealing these monstrosities to enlighten us or to show us our own perversions.
Joined on Dark Developments by the psych strains of Elf Power and the sometimes-backing band the Amorphous Strums, Chesnutt whimsically guides us through a dark emotional landscape. It’s a harrowing ride delivered with imagery that’s sometimes chilling and sometimes comic but is always pointed and poetic.
Whether on the almost warped children’s-song vibe of “And How” and “Bilocating Dog” or the more, brooding abrasive “Little Fucker” and “We Are Mean,” the lethal mix of the Elves’ pop and Chesnutt’s raspy, knowing vocal delivery is fun but unsettling. It accentuates the tension that exists between the music and lyrics, revealing the dark underside of even the brightest of riffs.
Chesnutt recorded Dark Developments last winter in his attic studio, and its homemade origins emphasize the album’s personal nature. It’s evidence of a powerful songwriter honing his artistry.