I'm looking at my contenders for the Best Records Of 2011, and the combined age of the artists so far is 5408 years old. It's not as if I have some serious prejudice against the kids. I love the kids. But I will not fall prey to hype, beards, and 5-star reviews...anymore.
In what seemed like months before its release, Jonathan Wilson's "Gentle Spirit" achieved 4 and 5-star status from no less than 3 respectable music rags. Wilson is not necessarily a kid, but still young-ish in his early 30s. He boasts credits behind everyone from Erykah Badu to Elvis Costello. Jackson Browne loves this dude. Graham Nash loves this dude. Check out one review HERE.
Have you heard the record? It's contrived bullshit from another "genius."
As Neil Young famously said on "4-Way Street," right before debuting then new song, Don't Let It Bring You Down, "It sorta starts out slow, then fizzles out altogether." Big difference between Neil and Jonathan? A sense of humor. By track 4, which is already 30 minutes into "Gentle Spirit," Wilson's vocals become a whisper, as if we're supposed to feel his pain or experience his "high." This record is a relentless display of pretense. It is dying to be a cult classic. Sorry dude. Records shouldn't be conceived as cult classics. It's supposed to just happen.
Sure, I'm taking it out on this poor shnook instead of the idiots who've been raving about him, but isn't this exactly the problem? Find me a dozen records with rave reviews, by new or newish bands, that really and truly pack a whallop. I mean, a consistent side to side whallop like the classic LPs of old. Critics are so desperate to discover something special, they toss off 5 star reviews like Shatner goes through hairpieces. It's all hype. And after the initial pass through all of these "amazing new albums by these brilliant new artists," precious little sticks to your ribs.
Now, before the members of Wyldlife start getting all chubby, let me say, I don't think their debut is the Best Record of 2011. But for a little over 30 minutes, a perfect length for an LP by the way, Wyldlife explodes with hook after mouthwatering hook. This is "stick to your ribs" rock and roll.
These kids come out of the box with one of the best songs of the year, a song with a chorus so big, you will be hard-pressed not to whip out your air guitar or bang your head. "City Of Inbreds" which opens Wyldlife's debut release is a monster. It is a song that gets everything right. Even if you're not a fan of The Clash, or The Ramones, or the Dolls, or The Strokes, you must recognize that not only does "City Of Inbreds" have hit written all over it, it also boasts the most properly placed minor chord in the history of rock and roll right at the 1:23 mark.
And the album doesn't let up there.
"(She's Making Me) Nervous," "One Night Only," "Sidewalk Queen"---these songs, in three and a half minutes or less, say more than just about any of the 5-star darlings supposedly changing the world with their epic, aural melodramas.
There is a place for Jonathan Wilson, and a place for 5-star reviews. It just used to be harder to get to.
Wyldlife got me excited. It's a new band with some great young players, writing riffs and hooks and choruses to die for, and I'm loving it to death. But I'm still not slapping 5-stars on it. "Beatles '65" only got 3 1/2 stars, for Pete's sake.
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Listen to "City Of Inbreds" HERE