erasing clouds

The Winter Blanket, Prescription Perils

review by dave heaton

The Winter Blanket's third album Prescription Perils has a stark drawing of a heart on the cover...and that about says it all. The perils sung about inside are of the heart: interior worries, concerns, dilemmas, and hopes. The album begins with a rock n' roll attack that parallels the panic that the main character of the song ("Four Tornados") is going through as he realizes that he's dying alone. The rest of the album carries none of that song's musical intensity. As the music shifts to a gentle, midnight-in-the-snow mood, with occasional allusions to old-time country, the intensity generated by the opening track's rock elements shifts from the surface to the inside, from the sound to the lyrics, where there's serious drama occuring within people, couples, families, and homes.

Prescription Perils is marked by the gorgeous singing of Stephanie Davila and Doug Miller, the sparse loveliness of the songs' arrangements, and lyrics that tell small bedroom dramas of heartbreak, strife, and desire. "Why I Act This Way," one song is titled, as in "I don't know why I act this way"... and "I don't know why you act this way," either. That's what the characters in all of the songs are trying to figure out, human behavior and misbehavior. Everyone's trying to figure out each other, and themselves; both are impossible. But still we need each other. Or as a lyric on the song "Twenty-Five Now" perfectly put its, "Tell me what I mean to you/I don't know what I mean to me/but if you left I'd follow you."

Halfway through the album, there's a remarkable cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Darkness on the Edge of Town," Miller's singing giving it a late-night glow that's really haunting. Musically the Boss is far off stylistically from the Winter Blanket - a band dogged by unfair but not completely inappropriate comparisons to Low - but both make music that really gets under the surfaces, of people, circumstances, and places. "Everybody's got their own secret/something they just can't face," a line in "Darkness..." famously goes; it could easily slide into most of the songs on Prescription Perils without anyone noticing.

When Davila sings, "They say you're better/I didn't know you were sick" on "Sticks and Stones," it's a startling moment in its frankness, and in the near-dead pan tone of her voice, but it also really resonates inside us for its tenderness and the way it reminds us of how impossible it is to really understand another person, to really know what's going on inside hearts and minds. There's disarming moments like those throughout the album, places where the words cut deep - not just because of the words themselves, but because of the context, of the delicate and solitary yet in its own way quite raw and intense atmosphere that the album has.

Love and anger and hurt and longing: all un-quantifiable things that men and woman have been trying to understand since time began. Prescription Perils stands as one more remarkable example of artists giving voice to the questions and feelings that lurk inside all of us. They don't have the answers, of course, but these songs ask the questions in thoughtful, often breathtakingly beautiful ways.


Issue 29, December 2004

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