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Slim Cessna's Auto Club

Cipher – 2008 (Alternative Tentacles)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Slim Cessna's Auto Club

In the past decade and a half, Slim Cessna has navigated his Auto Club through a variety of sonic guises, from goofball novelty country to dark Gothic Americana to punk-fueled apocolyptica that careened madly in the space between. On the Auto Club's sixth album overall and fourth studio work for punk label Alternative Tentacles, Cessna and his dark church choir touch on all of the styles they've previously mastered to create an audio bible that shivers and shouts about salvation and damnation with equal fervor.

The album lives up to its title in the credits where Cessna's Masonic symbols are substituted for an actual alphabet, making the track listing almost completely unintelligible (look them up on Amazon for an English translation). Musically, the Auto Club encompasses everything from dark indie country ruminations that sound like Nick Cave obsessed with Hank Williams ("All About the Bullfrog in 3 Verses") to a self-referential Teutonic Sparks/Pogues drinking song ("SCAC 101") to Tom Waits/Forrest Gump electric blues howl ("Jesus is in My Body: My Body Has Let Me Down") to gypsy jazz roots rock ("That Fierce Cow is Common Sense in a Country Dress"). It may seem a little disjointed on the surface, but Cessna and the Auto Club knits all of their sonic elements together under their general Gothic Americana banner, giving Cipher a schizophrenic coherence and a devotional power.