somnambulent pirates howling behind a thick fog

Beyotchfork gives Calexico’s new album an 8.1 today, but tellingly leaves it off their ‘recommended’ list, which should clue you into the bullshit of the 8.1 istelf. I’d give it a 6.5, max. If I was feeling generous, I’d say the 8.1 is Beyotchfreak’s makeup call for having slept on Calexico’s glorious early years, but I’m not even generous by nature: Bitchfrick is editorally inconsistent. Now that the stakes is high, what once passed for a set has ascended back into their pelvis.

A verdict on the new Wilderness album, Vessal States, is in: too careful. From such an auspicious debut, landmark in adventure, one would expect more exciting leaps from the soph effort. Wilderness has room in their landscape, their slow, winding fingertapped guitar, almost baroque in its precision and patience; their drummer refusing to untighten a complex, beat-filled bonfire, and then the bass remaining stately beneath; the vocals, a deeper Johnny Rotten, seemed destined to break open from influence into something new, better.

But here they only take a half step, with new production on James Johnson’s singing allowing us to hear him relay his raw, Dischord Records influences, but the style tinkering only offers us an improved frasing and a scintillating opening to “Gravity Bent Light,” where elongated organ notes lead to wordless howling, like somnambulent pirates threatening from somewhere in a thick fog. I bet the Wilderness has more Goth in them than one would guess.

If you’ve recently been a wussy with your music, though, get hip to them now, and gift yourself:
Wilderness – Gravity Bent Light

It’s like Adam and the Ants on absinthe, no?

20 thoughts on “somnambulent pirates howling behind a thick fog

  1. I’ve gotta disagree about Vessel States. I was initially disappointed, too, but having listened to it about fifty times in the past month, I’ve really come around. It’s a lot stranger album than you realize at first. At first, it just sounds a little punchless, like a slightly watered-down version of the debut, albeit with better vocal sounds. But the songs are actually much odder than on the debut, and this takes some time to come through. Most of them lack the same fist in the air quality of, say, End of Freedom, and they can occasionally be less propulsive. But the album’s a real grower, in my opinion. The songs are much more diverse this time around. But there is, of course, the question of what could you do that would be much more awesome than the debut. I mean, would you want the sound to change much? Not I.Also, the new songs are amazing live, as evidenced last night.

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  2. I’d so love to see the live show, so please here take my envy and stomp on it with extreme prejudice. I hadn’t considered the ‘grow on’ quotient wiht this rekkid, and I suspect you’re right; despite my kvetching, I wann listen to it right now. What I want, with the odder song structures, is more range. They’re surprise-less.

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  3. Mr. Parnell,The Wilderness has that suburban Philadelphia raised on stale Tastycakes sound. They owe more to Alice Donut records played at the wrong speed than to Adam and the Ants. One humble man’s opinion.

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  4. Good lord, wouldn’t one be viscerally embarrassed to admit they knew what Alice Donut sounded like, knew what Philadelphia suburbs smelled like, and knew the taste of stale tastycakes? You need to make up lies about your childhood as soon as possible. Sure, it’s easy to be humble, but you aslo have to have some dignity in this world.No offense, though.

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  5. Mr. Parnell:Your blog is my self-help. Besides, you can get a lot worse than stale tastycakes and Alice Donut. BTW – Alice Donut was Janes Addiction before Jane said. I recall in collge hanging out with some humble folks who were enthralled with the lastest Ride and MBV eps. They liked them even more when I put the record player at the correct speed. The suburbs of Philly do have a way of making one appreciative of the finer things in life.

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  6. And one more thing, then. Live, the band is so gottdamn impressive because they look like such fucking dorks. A little cooler now than even a few months ago, but still. It’s obvious this is not something they’re engaged in for shits, giggles, or girls. Ok, I’m not a publicist, so I’ll stop.

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  7. Dorks doing something Cool and Serious is that Dischord thing, again, and to be expected from a band from Bodymore, MD, home of Lungfish /DC North /home of Butch Willis. even if you were a publicist, we’d understand.

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  8. An email I just sent to Bitchfork on my day off:Let me recommend a few albums that I feel should have made your top 100 of the 80s.The Sundays – Reading, writing…Uncle Tupelo – Still Feel GoneGalaxie 500 – TodayDream Syndicate – The Days of Wine and RosesSlowdive – anythingTeenage Fanclub – anythingThe Hoodoo Gurus – anythingBig Dipper – HeavensMudhoney – Superfuzz BugmuffThe Pastels – Up A Bit You have the first Pixies EP and Doolittle on the listwhen there are many, many more worthy records, in myhumble opinion.

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  9. As for the snitchfuck top 100 of the 80s, here’s a better list to bother with – top 100 unsung, ignored, unhip albums of the 80s. Watcha got? Maybe the Goo Goo Dolls third record is frikkin great? Maybe you can remember Pierce Turner? The Brandos? Diamond D?

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  10. Holy Smokes, I don’t know those latter three at all. As far as the Goo Dolls go, just go to the real thing – the first Buffalo Tom and the Lemonheads Lovey album. Both were unhip and dismissed by their fans. Also unhip, Robyn Hitchcock – I often Dream of Trains. Ok, the most ignored album, and I am ashamed to say that I neglected it the first time around, Codine – Frigid Stars. And damn, the first Mazzy Star. Just a fine slab of pop goodness. And the Pogues, Fall from Grace. Bitchfork really did drop the ball. I mean, Doolittle in the top 10, get real.

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  11. Saw Calexico on Saturday. No drummer. It was my first exposure to the new stuff and I think it will bear repeated listening. The show was free and the set was short, some of the new stuff, some highlights from “Feast of Wire,” but there was some killer horn work on the new material and a great tune written with Los Super Seven.Got tickets to see my future ex-wife, I mean Neko Case, tomorrow.Bill

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  12. Dunno about the drummer. It may just have been part of the deal–the show was at a club, but it was a record release party sponsored by a local store, so it may have been a skeleton lineup.

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