A great band name, intriguing album title, and enigmatic cover art augur well for Hills Like Elephants, a solo venture by San Diego-based Sean Davenport (former frontman of Gun Runner). For The Endless Charade, he recruited skillful sound engineer Christopher Hoffee and a small band of musicians. The result is a cohesive record that chronicles Davenports affairs of the heart. The album title neatly affirms the futility of it all for a man for whom the course of true love has hardly run smooth. What could have been a very somber telling, though, is redeemed by plenty of uptempo, keyboard-driven, and drum-rich music. So, you can dance along to much of it while putting down the ex.
The production has a live, vintage edge to it throughout, and the way guitars and synths are used to add texture is impressive. Davenport sounds uncannily like actor Nicolas Cage; indeed his singsongy intonation conjures up a vision of Sailor Ripley, Cages character in David Lynchs Wild at Heart. His vocal style, though, is both a strength and a constraint. It has enough distinction to stand out, but the variations in volume and especially pitch, as he slurs up the register to hit falsetto notes, are employed all too frequently. So, what is really effective delivery on the strong, mantra-like opening track, Hell Needs Calvary, tends to pall halfway through the 10-song collection.
That said, the front end of the record is pretty strong. The 80s anthem Intriguing Dilemma and the pacy rocker Invisible Ink particularly hit home. However, a different vocal delivery here and there would have strengthened the albums second half, which falters a little by comparison. Davenports songs often evoke David Bowie in construction and performance, and musically the album always maintains interest, even in its more exposed moments.
Essential Tracks: Hell Needs Calvary, Intriguing Dilemma, and Invisible Ink