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Photograph by Joey Cobbs
Speak no Evil: The Tell-Tale Heartbreakers celebrate the release of their self-titled CD.

Flowers Of Evil

The Tell-Tale Heartbreakers' intoxicating sound

By Gary Singh

BY NOW, it might be cliché to portray the post-goth sultry macabre rock music of the Tell-Tale Heartbreakers as a melodic force that harnesses perversity and intoxicated experience as a means of obliterating all underlying principles of reason, rationale and purity. But it is indeed safe to say that they inhabit a shadowy void where vampires and Poe fanatics engage in a smoochfest with psychobilly lizards at a Fernet-fueled, tattooed-zombie pledge drive and charity ball with dinner attire recommended.

Here's the band: Traci—she's the vocalist, to say the least; Ryan crouches over and wields his guitar like a hunchback carrying a sack of gangrenous limbs through the graveyard; and Matt lays the foundation on bass. Oh, and Joey's up there on the skins, right at the epicenter of a spinning vortex projection a la Mel Brooks in High Anxiety. Rightly so, the crowd gyrates like whirling Arab dervishes ecstatically plowed on holy red wine, but with hair dye, fishnet, makeup and jet-black apparel substituting for the turbans and flowing robes.

"That's necessary for me," Traci says of the audience's activity, as we all congregate in a dark empty club before opening time. "I sort of fall back into myself when there's nothing going in the audience and people are just standing around. I think that when people are out there moving around, then we're like pinging this energy back and forth. I think it makes us all get out of our heads and just take off."

While the music is gloomy in nature, if you look deeper into the shtick, the band is cackling and snickering underneath it all. It hits you like laughing gas. And since certain passages from Baudelaire's Artificial Paradises: On Hashish and Wine as Means of Expanding Individuality at least partly describe the effect that a Tell-Tale Heartbreakers gig might elicit, allow me to therefore map Baudelaire's experiences onto the sinister rocking atmosphere created by this post-punk group.

Like Baudelaire explains, when the drug initially hits:

At first, a certain absurd, irresistible hilarity overcomes you. The most ordinary words, the simplest ideas assume a new and bizarre aspect. This mirth is intolerable to you; but it is useless to resist. The demon has invaded you. ... Next your senses become extraordinarily keen and acute. Your sight is infinite. Your ear can discern the slightest perceptible sound, even through the shrillest of noises.

"That's the kind of stuff we're trying to put out," says Ryan. "Stuff that's fun and accessible and that sticks in your head like glue, but also that has a little bit of a darker side to it. That's just kind of my twisted brain—as we all come from different musical backgrounds—but we've all gone through the gloomy stuff."

"We're still walking around with it,"Traci adds. "Yeah, we still have our little capes somewhere," Ryan says.

And Baudelaire continues:

The slightest ambiguities, the most inexplicable transpositions of ideas take place. In sounds there is color; in colors there is music. ... You are sitting and smoking; you believe that you are sitting in your pipe, and that your pipe is smoking you; you are exhaling yourself in bluish clouds.

Inside the club, the band will break into tunes that stick in your head, like "Rollercoaster," or "Genevieve," which has already been filmed for a video. The foreboding hooks will getcha.

"It is catchy and it does stick in your head," Traci admits. "And although it does have those dark overtones, it's still just pop-rock or post-punk."

Even those new to the dark, ominous high that the Tell-Tales create live will understand what Baudelaire meant when he reached the final stage:

The third phase ... is something beyond description. It is what the Orientals call kef; it is complete happiness. There is nothing whirling and tumultuous about it. It is a calm and placid beatitude. Every philosophical problem is resolved. Every difficult question that presents a point of contention for theologians, and brings despair to thoughtful men, becomes clear and transparent. Every contradiction is reconciled. Man has surpassed the gods.

"Basically, we just want you to come party with us," Ryan explained. "I want the audience to see that we just brought our whole game with us and just gave it our all."

THE TELL-TALE HEARTBREAKERS perform on Saturday (Nov. 17) at 9pm at the Blank Club, 44 S. Almaden Ave., San Jose. Tickets are $8. (408.292.5265)

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