Parenthetical Girls - On Death and Endearments
On May 1st 1947, 23 year old Evelyn McHale threw herself off the observation deck of the Empire State Building. She fell 86 floors and crashed into the roof of a limousine parked on the street below. A mere four minutes after her death, student photographer, Robert Wiles captured an iconic shot of her serene corpse amongst the wreckage. 63 years later, Parenthetical Girls open their On Death and Endearments EP with an agonised tribute to the girl whose death became more famous than her life.
On Death and Endearments is the first in a series of five EPs that upon completion will form the Portland band’s fourth album, Privilege. As a taste of things to come, it works brilliantly. The four tracks drag you deep into Zac Pennington’s lurid psyche, a world that manages to be as luxuriously seductive as it is strained and terrifying. They seem to have shed some of the camp frivolity of previous releases in favour of a more shattered severity and traded the grand orchestration for slightly simpler percussion-led arrangements which support rather than frolic with the vocals.
Thankfully, despite tackling themes of personal mortality and a traumatic potential fatherhood, the band retains their habit of “knowing-wink-at-the-audience” moments, constantly weaving allusions to their previous work and pop archetypes into the fray. In ‘Evelyn McHale’ we’re, “still safe as houses” and title track, ‘On Death and Endearments’ rests on a foundation of Kate Bush-style gasps. It seems unlikely that there are four EPs of doom and gloom ahead.
But, as any hardened Parenthetical Girls fan will know, four tracks just isn’t enough. On Death and Endearments has well and truly whetted the palate, but with over a year to wait, we’re already gagging for a big juicy Privilege shaped steak – with a camp little garnish perhaps?