Want a break from the avalanche of niche-marketed, multimedia “artists” that seem to have emerged whole cloth from some focus-group factory? Do you miss rock music, the kind of rock music that doesn’t distinguish between the loud category, the melodic category or the tongue-lodged-in-cheek category? Prepare to receive the rock, because I, Wombat are gonna run your lighter dry.
The festivities kick off with “Silvertongue,” wherein this Fort Wayne band shows us, in just a few short minutes, what rock is all about. This tune is full of relentless riffs, stabbing guitars, tribal toms and vocals that implore us to reach for the greatest rocking goal we can seek: pleasure, baby! This one’s got it all, and it’s a concise snapshot of what makes I, Wombat such a not-so-guilty pleasure. They bring the vehicle, and all you have to do is hang on and enjoy the ride. “Deuce” is pure Tool-meets-Rollins-meets-Jesus Lizard-meets the Minutemen on Robitussin. The guitars here sound thick, and they definitely invite volume-knob abuse. This song just rolls along from one cool movement to another, ebbing and flowing. “I would not go in there if I were you,” intones vocalist Chad Fry with a hint of dread and more than a little smirk. Then the whole thing catches fire and accelerates briefly into a punk rave-up, only to regain its composure and end with some cool, understated guitar interplay. On its heels comes the fractured time signature and pumping bass that signal “Just Sayin,” which manages to be both pummeling and catchy as hell.
No recording could ever capture the live Wombat experience, which is visceral and, on a great night, face-melting. But this song comes close to capturing some of their infectious combination of roar, cheek and unabashed love of rock. This disc might not melt your face clean off, but give it a nice loud spin and your cheeks will get mighty warm. “Dust” features some pleasant chiming guitars and an oddly appropriate-sounding touch of reggae, while the prog-informed “Black Bunnies” sounds as if it’s rising from the ashes of early 90s Chicago noise rock. The song’s sonic twists and turns lead you through a maze of disquiet, only leveling off to allow Fry to put you on your heels with some alternately sardonic and raging vocals. The rollicking “Cynical” bops along on a riff that’s both Beatlesque and bluesey. Bassist/vocalist Darren Monroe sings, “I’m done being cynical” like a mantra, insisting that “a new leaf is turning today,” and adding a hint of pathos this insanely catchy tune. As with the best rock music, the devil’s in the details.
Part of I, Wombat’s appeal lies in their sense of humor, as evidenced by the repeat-button candidate “Gary the Viking.” This epic Nordic rock narrative stars a hapless hero with whom we can all identify: “Gary was a Viking / he tried to keep it real,” sings Fry, lamenting that “… all he got was lost.” Hoist a horn to this, possibly the finest hard rock Viking song penned in the tri-state area in years, if not ever.
Capably tracked at the stately confines of I, Wombat’s own DeuceTone facilities by Monroe, this clean, uncluttered and punchy record also benefits from some production tweaking by Mike Picotte. The album wraps up with the hard-driving “POS,” a tune chock full of stellar guitar work that’s guaranteed to produce symptoms of head bobbing and affirmative nodding. It’s reason enough to catch I, Wombat live. Incidentally, they’ll be hosting the official release of this disc on July 7 (07/07/07) at Fort Wayne at Kaysan’s 5th Down. Go to www.wombatrocks.com for more information.
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Marcus King Band
July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion