Monday, July 9, 2012

Wildcat Strike (2012)

Rebellion and the discoveries and exuberance of youth aren't exactly new themes for Rock and Roll.  Indeed, you could very easily argue, as a great many have, that that stuff is what the music's all about.  At this late date in our history, I doubt that any band could make these themes feel brand new.  The most that they can reasonably hope for is to make them feel relevant.  That's what Wildcat Strike accomplishes with its eponymous debut album.

This Salt Lake City band sets up a vivid context for these themes right off the bat.  The album's opener, "Full Denim Jacket," conjures up the unwelcome specter of the Iraqi conflict.  A young man who "wasn't ready for the army" keeps his mouth shut and toes the party line, not realizing that "I was putting more gas in your car."  Some rebellion definitely seems in order after feeling the earth shake and smelling the smoke in the air, and it comes on the very next track, "Lloyd Braun."  "I coulda been that man,/ Your prophecy in hand," Tony Lake sings, but instead, "I found my way home/ By chasing rolling stones./ Looked for my big stars/ In all them shiny cars."

He finds that big star in track 3, "Billy Crystal."  In this predominantly acoustic number, a girl and a guy take off in their car for parts unknown, leaving their elders with this parting shot: "You're not the justice, you're not the law./ This is not the truth."  From this straight-outta-Springsteen scenario, the guy goes on to navigate the ups and downs of young romance, and he's so eager and grateful for the experiences that he takes both with equal enthusiasm.  Here's the chorus of possibly my favorite song on the album, "Ain't Nobody Gotta Know":

White lie lady, tell me a story.
I don't mind being pushed around.
Cover my eyes in wool and make me your fool.
White lie lady, tell me a story.
Drag me across town
Cuz the best part, the best part's being left in the dark.

Of course, none of this would matter much if the music didn't rock.  Will Tuddenham's built-for-speed basslines and Jordan Mendenhall's relentless drumming serve as the perfect complement to the restless curiosity and excitement of Wildcat Strike's lyrics.  Tony Lake and Jake Rosevear's droning, hypnotic guitar riffs grab the listener by the ears and don't let go for the whole album.  I still have my reservations about Tony Lake's screaming, but in this context, it's appropriate: it underlines how desperately the young guy in these songs wants to be heard.  And anyway, Lake's tenor has so much guile and confidence that it should age just fine with some proper maintenance.

Wildcat Strike ends on an ambiguous note.  The final track, "Brave the Squall," invokes the Iraq war again--"Dead man walking in issued boots/ With the numbered jacket that's been reused"--and revolves around the line, "And nothing will prepare me for you."  The music, alternately hopeful and ominous, suggests that that could turn out good or bad.  After listening to this album a few times, I'd put my money on good.  That goes both for the guy in the songs and for the band.

Wildcat Strike will be released on July 27th at the Fice Boutique in downtown Salt Lake City.  You can look up info on Wildcat Strike on Facebook and Bandcamp.

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