Blabber’n’Smoke first came across Rick Beerhorst just over a year ago when his album A Little piece of Pie cast a warm glow on some late winter nights. “Quirky,” we said at the time while admiring the literate vocal delivery and the naive art rock Sturm und Drang. At the time Beerhorst said that a band, Wealthy Orphans, grew out of that recording and one year later they’ve delivered their first baby. While it’s still essentially Beerhorst’s offspring the concentration of just four musicians (as opposed to the long list that populated Pie) allows for a more unified and uniform sound. Beerhorst (who writes all of the songs, sings and plays guitar and Victrola horn) is keen to note that the end result is a collaborative arrangement with his fellow band members (Michael Schaeffer, accordion, melodica, Adam Thompson, bass guitar, vibraphone, percussion and DJ Viernes, drums, percussion).
A painter and printmaker as well as a community activist one gets the sense that Beerhorst has a fair degree of knowledge regarding theatre and in particular cabaret as several of Throwing Glory’s songs have a theatrical bent to them with a whiff of Brecht and Weill as well as contemporary artists such as The Tiger Lillies. The accordion affords a European feel and together with Beerhorst’s laid back vocal delivery it’s reminiscent at times of The Colorblind James Experience although Wealthy Orphans keep the polka element to a minimum. Broken Dreams and The Young Become The Old both swing and sway like a flea-bitten orchestra pit band from the Wiemar Republic while Dangerous Places is delivered as if it were by Nick Cave backed by a gypsy accordion band and is particularly impressive.
Elsewhere Wealthy Orphans maintain Beerhorst’s love of New York art rock antecedents with Baby Who Have You Been With coming across like a European son of Talking Heads while Looking For My Muse is Antony & The Johnsons without the falsetto. A lovely song Looking For My Muse benefits from the fine playing of the band with some very sympathetic accordion and vibraphone and while they play well throughout the album they reach an apogee on Never Pass This Way Again where the plucking, picking and squeezing paints a wonderful backdrop that swells to a climax of Penguin Cafe Orchestra proportions. In the midst of this Beerhorst delivers his finest lyrics that recount a litany of failures and decay, an understated gem of a song.