Whether you’re from the Midwest (like me) or Finland (like HIM), whether you’re a transplant to the city (Katie Holmes in Pieces of April) or a purebred Manhattanite (Katie Holmes in Phone Booth? Don’t worry; not important), you’ve felt the desperation of being an innocent when Broadway’s gettin’ medieval on your ass. You lose love or get the evil eye from your landlord, and all of a sudden you’re on the phone to whoever’ll listen: “Why did I move to this godforsaken city?! Back home at least I had a meal and clean laundry and people were decent! You know what that asshole gave me as he was leaving? This totally evil CD with some strung-out goth on the cover and a picture of a big black hearse, and you know what? I wish I was inside that hearse!!!”
Well, hang on there, Maybelle. You never judge a goth by his strungedness, and HIM’s Ville Valo is a pussycat: “I know how it feels to be on your own/In this cruel world mere hearts are bound to turn to stone,” he advises at the beginning of “Don’t Close Your Heart.” According to another album title, these guys play a genre called “Love Metal”—apparently that’s why their pentagram incorporates a heart. (Awwww . . . ) As with other difficult musical concepts, like “harmolodics” or “Hopelandic” or “microhouse,” this one doesn’t live up to its title with mathematical precision—think faceless (but pretty) adult-alternative strummers using thicker guitars and the “theremin” setting on their Korg. (“In Joy and Sorrow” more or less remixes the Calling’s hit “Wherever You Will Go”—according to Love, Actually, the Sound of the Heartland!) On Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights (two years old in Finland, new here), the closest they get to goth is the closing tune, which steals the organ from the Cure’s “Love Song” and vocal effects from U2’s early ’90s. That’s not real close, but it doesn’t seem to be their goal. Listen for them in the upcoming sequel Splinters of April. After the big black hearse carts April’s mom away, April won’t need Stephin Merritt’s stinging wit as much as she’ll need Ville Valo’s comfortably numb, wish-you-were-here reassurances.