Steve Wilson. On music.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Reverberations Countdown - No. 7, Wounded Lion

Welcome to the top 25 for 2010 Countdown! Each day we'll countdown, today we continue with number 7, culminating with our (okay, my) numero uno album of the year. When they're handy I'll borrow my earlier reviews from the KC Free Press. 

I welcome all comments, criticisms, questions and dialog in general.

25. Jon Langford - 
Old Devils (Bloodshot)
24. Vaselines - Sex with an X (Sub Pop)
23. Drive-By Truckers - The Big To-Do (ATO)
22. Magnetic Fields - Realism (Nonesuch)
21. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be (Sub Pop)
20. Peter Case - Wig! (Yep Roc)
19. Bettye Lavette - Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook (Anti-Epitaph) 
18. Super Wild Horses - Fifteen (Hovac) 
17. Parting Gifts - Strychnine Dandelion (In the Red) 
16. No Age - Everything In Between (Sub Pop)
15. The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter (Domino) 
14. First Aid Kit - The Big Black and the Blue (Wichita Recordings) 
13. Owen Pallett - Heartland (Domino)
12. Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone (Anti-Epitaph)
10 (tie). J. Roddy Walston and the Business - s/t (Vagrant)
10 (tie). Aloe Blacc - Good Things (Stones Throw)
  9. Roky Erickson & Okkervil River - True Love Cast Out All Evil (Anti-Epitaph) 

  8. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest (4AD)

7. Wounded Lion - s/t (In the Red)

"Post-grad, two-chord, cut-up, butt-shakin'"

There’s a vital tradition of rock neo-primitivism. Sometimes it’s a product of the musician’s limited skills (the Ramones); as often as not it’s at least in part aesthetic strategy (Talking Heads). Of course, it’s frequently both (Wire). Such is the case with Wounded Lion, I suspect. These Los Angeles conceptualists combine pan-generational two-chord rock with simple, but sophisticated lyrics. Their self-titled debut is a gas.

Singer Brad Eberhard is a painter who, not unlike Brian Eno, David Byrne and other visual artists before him, is attracted to the confines of minimalism. Eberhard sounds a little like Byrne, a bit like Edwyn Collins from Orange Juice. And his band plays with a fierce, grinding urgency that connects the dots between the Rolling Stones and the Pixies. Eberhard’s lyrics are composed from stray stuff, or at least the stray stuff of a 2010 California intellectual. Granted, the early rock pioneers never wrote about satyrs (“Pony People”) or Star Wars ephemera (“Dagoba System”), but really this isn’t too far divorced from Billy Lee Riley’s “little green men” in “Flying Saucers Rock and Roll,” both find wonder and meaning in the modern mythos of pop culture detritus.

Delivered with authority and brevity it never ceases to amaze me how potent two (sometimes three) chord rock songs can be if the messengers have personality and point of view. Throw in some smart moves like the “There She Goes Again” (Velvet Underground) bridge for “Hungry” and the Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments harmonies on “Belt of Orion” it’s obvious that Wounded Lion are sharp enough to be students of Wire.

In fact, much of this debut reminds of Wire’s debut Pink Flag another arch, knowingly stripped down blast of post-rock. Wounded Lion’s aleatoric sensibilities are manifest in “Belt of Orion’s” mixture of astronomical wonder and “Chinese Rocks” (Heartbreakers/Ramones) paraphrases. The Burroughs-ian cutup approach to lyrics, especially on “Silver People,” which weaves Buffalo Springfield lines and Coors-Lite commercial verbiage is further evidence of Wounded Lion’s fractured methods.

Wounded Lion isn’t recommended for fans of prog-rock or worshippers of fast-fingered virtuosity, but if you love art-damaged, stripped-down rock this band is for you.

Reverberating: 8.3 (original), upgraded to 9.1