The mystery of love

Black Heart Procession hide the clues in their newest album

For good old despair and hopelessness just like Mom used to make, it's tough to beat San Diego's Black Heart Procession. Singer-instrumentalist Pall Jenkins and keyboardist Tobias Nathaniel formed the band six years ago as a side project of the band Three Mile Pilot. They routinely fling themselves into the bottomless pit of lost love and bitter recriminations.

The band's most recent record, 'Amore del Tropico' (Touch and Go Records), is a humid collection of dissolution songs set to dark and languid tropical-beat pop, fleshed out with violins, xylophones and even a musical saw to give the whole thing a mysterious, unreal quality. Think David Lynch gets his Rio on. Tucked in among Jenkins' ruminations over yet another broken heart are the clues to a musical murder mystery that the listener is invited to solve. What does Jenkins mean when he sings, 'Love is a poison ring,' or 'Fingerprints/they found my fingerprints' or 'You left me years ago/where the sky and snow turn red?'

The music is scintillating and rather creepy. Jenkins' lyrics are reminiscent of a pulp novel by David Goodis or Frederic Brown where the killer whom the detective is relentlessly chasing turns out to be the man in the mirror.

Black Heart Procession publicity gal Miranda Lange confirms that the band is also making a DVD, in which each song from 'Amore del Tropico' is played out as a different chapter in the mystery. Watch for it later this summer.

Black Heart Procession play at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, at Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave., 503-233-1994, $12

Bettie Serveert

Log 22

(Parasol Records)

When singer Carol van Dyk chirps, 'I'm really glad to see you. É It's been a long time,' she could just as easily be talking about the record-buying public as some meandering lover. For Dutch popsters Bettie Serveert, it's been more than a decade since they scored a college radio hit with 'Tom Boy' from their debut album, 'Palomine.'

Since that time, the band has continued to plug away, putting out decent records every couple of years, even releasing an album of Velvet Underground covers in 1998. As often happens, though, trying to wrangle a formula for follow-up success has proved elusive.

Their latest album, 'Log 22,' should drench that dry spell if the Betties can find some sensible listeners out there to gather in all of this rich pop goodness. The music is vast and extremely varied, yet overwhelmingly ear-friendly. Van Dyk offers up a chameleonic array of moods and manners backed by her able instrumental foil, Peter Visser. From Chrissie Hynde tough to Bjšrk oddity, van Dyk is fully representing.

'Wide-Eyed Fools' opens with a bit of Portishead-style somber electronica before bursting into a guitar-charged hearty chorus. 'Smack' is a delectable and infectious little rocker that has the same sort of hysterical bounce as Elastica's 'Connection.' It could easily be the coveted second hit the band has been looking for, if the gods of publicity and marketing decide to play ball (knock wood).

Potential hits aside, there's plenty to keep one engaged here. 'White Dogs' is a plunge-and-rush nod to the Velvets. 'Certainlie' is bristling with sexy jazz smoke, and the spiky pop of 'Not Coming Down' makes for a surefire shaker. 'Log 22' is a record filled with winners and wonders. Welcome back, Bettie!

Bettie Serveert play at 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, at Dante's Caffe Italiano, 1 S.W. Third Ave., 503-226-6630, $10

Contact John Chandler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..