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|At Home in Two Worlds: The Lonely Wild, May 4 at Rozz-Tox|
|Music - Feature Stories|
|Written by Jeff Ignatius|
|Tuesday, 30 April 2013 16:49|
On the Web site of the California band The Lonely Wild is a country-rock-stomp version of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” notable for its clarity, the way it bends the song to the band’s style while remaining true to the original, and some Michael Stipe-like vocals. But what will strike most people forcefully and immediately is the jarring segue into the guitar solo from Pink Floyd’s “Money,” with motifs from both songs intertwined for the remainder.
It’s a small, natural leap between the central riffs, but it’s an inspired pairing. And on its debut album, The Sun as It Comes (released April 2), the quintet shows a similar skill at combining disparate elements into a natural but distinctive whole – explosive desert gothic, with Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western soundtracks blended with modern indie rock.
The band will be performing at Rozz-Tox on May 4, and singer/songwriter Andrew Carroll said the band grew out of a solo project. His previous band had been a collaborative songwriting outfit, he said, and writing alone was “kind of liberating, not having to ask for other people’s opinions, or having to work with four different people ... . It gets difficult to produce material that way.”
The Morricone influence was evident, he said, even as he was writing on guitar: “I decided to run with it, push the music in that direction.” But he said he wanted the songs “to breathe a little bit more, and have more of a broader scope – that cinematic feel ... .” So he called former bandmate Ryan Ross to help flesh out and arrange the songs. They wanted to perform live, and the band was born.
For a group that’s only three years old, The Sun as It Comes is startlingly assured and mature. The title track opens the album and was inspired by the Arab Spring, but the political subject matter is secondary to the harmonies, the way some of Jessi Williams’ wordless vocals echo the reverb guitar, and its visceral build and release. But the lyrics, once you dig deeper, begin with an oddly right metaphor for revolution: “Tie a little string to the door / Tie the other end to your tooth, child. / It won’t hurt but for the moment / Of closing. / You must make room for all that / Is growing.”
Carroll said he wanted to avoid being preachy and used Bob Dylan and Neil Young as models for songwriting that is relevant, universal, timeless, and nuanced. He said one goal was to make it “more of a social thing than a politically charged thing. ... That song is inspired by the Arab Spring. I don’t think that’s the only reading ... . I try not to make it too specific.”
The vocals of “Keep Us Whole” soar above and elevate the Morricone-style guitar, percussion, and harmonica, but there remains an invigorating tension in the song, of music occupying two times and places at once.
Many of the songs date back several years, and Carroll said the band had the benefit of shaping and sharpening them in live performance. That was certainly helpful when the Lonely Wild went into the studio, as the engineer had to leave on the second day of recording because of a death in the family. That left the band with a new engineer – “It took us a little while to get our bearings back,” Carroll said – and some desperation. The six-day recording process included sessions of 15, 16, and 24 hours, he added, and “I think a lot of that stress and the extra pressure almost kind of helps to fuel the emotion on the record itself.”
On a few songs, the Morricone influence seems forced and unnecessary – such as “Everything You Need,” where the mariachi horns and rattlesnake percussion feel superfluous to the the propulsive tribal churn. Other times it seems jokey, as on the cheeky opening section of “Come Back Down.”
The insistent playfulness, though, is only rarely a distraction. The rocker “Banks & Ballrooms” is wisely arranged and performed without unnecessary accoutrements, and “Closer Than the Needle” is vocals and guitar over washes of gurgling noise.
More often, the songs find some peace between these two core identities: the Morricone fixation that suggests a novelty act and heartfelt, serious rock music. “Buried in the Murder” starts as a poignant ballad and quickly threatens to get silly with its Western intrusion, but the song works toward resolution, fusing them effectively at the fevered climax.
The Lonely Wild will perform at Rozz-Tox (2108 Third Avenue, Rock Island; RozzTox.com) on Saturday, May 4. Cover is $5, and the show starts at 9 p.m.
For more information on the Lonely Wild, visit TheLonelyWild.com.
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