There’s not much to be happy about on “Dead Reckoning,” the third album from Portland, Ore.-based the Builders and the Butchers. Singer-songwriter Ryan Sollee admits that he thought a great deal about the end of the world while writing it, filled as it is with apocalyptic references to giant floods, huge fires, earthquakes and destructive winds.
Sure, there’s little optimism in Sollee’s lyrics, but here’s the catch: The music that surrounds all the doomsday talk is a raucous, even rollicking trip that betrays the lyrical gloom.
There are banjos, trumpets, twanging strings and front-porch melodies throughout, and with two drummers playing one kit, powerful rhythms abound.
The best tracks are those that pair these sounds with singalong choruses beneath Sollee’s almost gleeful shouting: “And the stillness and the calm / Are broken by the rising sea,” he portends on “Rotten to the Core,” adding, “And the sky becomes a storm / The sun is down / The ocean starts to scream.” Or on “Black Elevator”: “You’re going down / In a black elevator / You tried to drink the water / But the water wouldn’t save.”
“Dead Reckoning” begs for foot stomping while Sollee bemoans our miserable world; if we’re all going to hell, we might as well enjoy the ride down.
Kindred spirits: The Decemberists, Drive-By Truckers, the Handsome Family
Show: Tuesday at the Red Palace. Doors open at 8 p.m. 202-399-3201. www.redpalacedc.com. $8 in advance; $10 at the door.