Review: The Handcuffs Release the Best Album of Their Career (So Far) With Burn The Rails

The Handcuffs

The Handcuffs are one of those bands who will play live shows relatively frequently, but feel no rush to release their albums. I think part of this is grounded in the band being a tad old fashioned, carrying the notion that one amazing release every couple of years (or twelve, in this case!) is better than multiple releases each year just to keep their name out there.

At the band’s core are Brad Elvis and Chloe F. Orwell, a creative duo I first encountered in their previous incarnation Big Hello, who specialized in power-pop with more a nod toward the British Isles than their Midwestern home base.

Elvis has a dizzying resume that spans decades and could take up an entire page of this review, and his style manages to bridge the preciseness of someone like Charlie Watts while channeling impossibly tight bursts of Keith Moon-like drum fills to keep things interesting. Watching him play live is wild since he never, ever seems to be exerting himself while still smacking the skins with thunderous power. Orwell is also a creative force to be reckoned with and when you put the two together, they unlock each other’s full potential.

Photo by Paula Borman, courtesy The Handcuffs

Big Hello slowly transitioned into The Handcuffs, bringing in a wider swathe of more permanent collaborators, all of whom carried years of experience and brought a whole new spectrum of sound to the group. As they’ve added Emily Togni on bass and vocals , Alison Hinderliter on keys, and Jeffrey Kmieciak on guitar it’s immediately opened up new avenues of sound for the group. And in this case, the band’s tendency to take their time between releases as they grew closer to each other worked in their favor. I could hear marked progress in the band’s early albums before they took a cool decade to come up with their latest release Burn The Rails.

It is not hyperbole to say the Burn The Rails is the best album of the band’s career, a mixture that simmered for a long time before reaching perfection. And while on previous releases it sounded at times like a number of strong creative personalities politely trying to stay out of each other’s way as they defined their sound, Burn The Rails features a band with a singular vision producing work that—and this is one of the highest compliments I can offer a band—is truly timeless.

The music on Burn The Rails is steeped in ’70s grooves, matching stomping beats and slashing chords with glam glitter and late-night swagger. Every song gets stuck in your head and I confess this is one of the few albums that has received an embarrassing amount of repeat listens, something rare when you listen to hundred of albums a month. But Burn The Rails is the kind of album you make space on your schedule to revisit, and I can’t wait for you too discover the same. Now that you’ve got a little context, fire up the album and give it a listen for yourself!

You can see The Handcuffs plays a ton of new music off their new album at PravdaFest this Saturday, June 25, at Sketchbook Brewing (4901 Main St. in Skokie), and they open the evening’s music at 7pm sharp, so don’t miss ’em!

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Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Tankboy resides in the body of Jim Kopeny and lives in Mayfair with Pickle the Kitten and a beagle named Betty (RIP) who may actually be slightly more famous than most of the musicians slogging through the local scene. He's written about music for much longer than most bands you hear on the radio have even existed.