Monday, January 12, 2009

The Well Wishers -- Jigsaw Days

The Well Wishers -- Jigsaw Days (Self Released)

What a difference a cover can make. When The Well Wishers covered The Chameleons’ “Nostalgia” on its last album, it cast the band’s music in a somewhat different light. While the band has more than earned its “power pop” designation, the emotional weight that meshes well with a post-punk undercurrent is what makes the Wishers stand out.

On this new disc, the big guitar riffs and the dreamy melodies are intact. But there is also a pervading melancholy that provides an attractive tension to many of these songs. Main man Jeff Shelton is pulling off a feat that many a great post-punker has turned -- being introspective while also being expansive.

This shows up not only in the music, but in the lyrics. The opener, “Heroes”, not only relies on a clever arrangement, where the verses are built on a series of musical buildups (it’s hard for me to describe), but articulate words. The song seems to be about the search for someone to pull your ass out of your problems. The music has a real drive to it, with a sadder undercurrent, providing and intersection between hope and reality.

The pithy closer, “Is”, has Shelton engaging in a bit of political philosophy. Basically, he gets rid of everyone who is causing all of our problems. I like the worldview.

But it’s the middle of the CD where the real action is. Yes, the centerpieces are truly the center pieces of this effort. “Drunk on the Tilt-o-Wheel” is a heartbreaker of a tune. The song features Shelton alone with his electric guitar. He analogizes his heartbreak with the repetition of a carnival ride, and ends up turning to the bottle. The melody is so simple and the spare presentation is a wise arranging choice. When Shelton comes out of the sole refrain in the song and sings, “I’m drinking again” with all of the pain and resignation he can muster, it’s truly arresting.

This is followed by the jet fueled “Moving Mountains”. The song comes in on a bed of riffing guitars. The song sounds like a hypothetical mid-point between Lindsey Buckingham and Bob Mould, with Mould dominating. Liquid melodies meet choppy and crunchy guitars (which keep the melodies buoyant) riding a skipping rhythm. This song isn’t fast, yet it’s all velocity. The adrenaline rush is resolved by a propulsive chorus that slows down the rush without giving up the power. Add Shelton’s blistering solo which heads into another driving verse and this is rock nirvana. This is one of the ten best songs of 2008.

The only flaw with the track is that it has to come to an end. Pretty much the same thing can be said about the album, which is barely over half an hour long. While I wouldn’t want to rush Shelton, or have him give up his tight song constructions, more tunes would be great, and if he wants to stretch out and show off more of the textures, atmospheres and lead guitar magic, I’d be up for it.

1 comment:

Slack-a-gogo said...

Good call on this - I picked it up based on your review and it didn't disappoint. Very solid record. I complained that there weren't any great pop records last year, and now I'm learning that there were at least a few (Frank Ciampi, Army Navy, and Explorer's Club).