Here’s what you get when you pop in Goodbyewave song-slinger John Hubner’s solo debut disc, Intro (Life in Distortion): an epic guitar-heavy instrumental; a measured, piano-driven number that’s simultaneously hooky and sinister (“Dog Dig Bone”); a tambourine-shaking, up-tempo tune (“Time to Burn”); and the jaunty, McCartney-esque “Outside Looking In,” which comes packed with everything from Harrison/ELO-approved guitar solos to what sounds like a xylophone. And that’s just the first four of the 12 killer cuts on Life in Distortion. Honestly, you’re not leaving the table hungry after you finish this one.
Having recently turned heads with Goodbyewave’s late 2009 release, Sleight of Hand, Hubner keeps his impressive creative streak alive here. If you’re not familiar with GBW, rest assured this solo turn will get you interested. While Hubner, the principal GBW dude, doesn’t veer too far afield here, he does make Life in Distortion an entity apart from his main project. It’s by turns introspective, detached, relaxed and coiled with tension. And it’s comin’ straight outta Warsaw, Indiana, which makes this indie-flavored gem of an album a bit of a welcome head-scratcher. Given the depth and diversity of the nascent Fort Wayne-area original music scene, this guy should fit right in. But, for now, let’s bask in the glow of some more of these songs.
As adept at breathtaking vocal harmonies as he is at a boatload of instruments, Hubner delivers the goods on “I Don’t Believe in Love.” The soaring/descending vocal lines take center stage here; they manage to sound both classic and completely in the now. The best way to describe “It’s Alright” would be to relate this Stones-meets-Wilco, acoustic-fueled number to the most comfortable pair of jeans you’ve ever owned. Goodbyewave aficionados will love the double-tracked vocals, the snaky chord changes and the pocket-epic grandeur on “Jainie, Her Brother, and Me.” The very next song, “Alternate Ending,” ups the ante with a windup of a piano line and a sterling vibe that permeates the melancholy like a stab of sun. Or something like that. “He asked for a rewrite / the ending was too down,” Hubner sings. His voice ringing yet sardonic, Hubner manages to channel both Steely Dan and Michael Penn at the same time, sounding utterly himself all the while. The arguable album highlight (there are several to choose from) is “All’s Well That Ends Well,” an insistent piano pounder that verges on, yes, danceable. This tune starts out delicately and then builds. And builds. And builds. “No prayer can cure this growing cancer, but I know we’ll find each other / as the night grows into day, and the blacks grow into gray / you will always be my other,” Hubner sings with a mixture of tenderness, resignedness and clarity. These words can mean a variety of things, but the emotional weight is obvious, and it makes an already stellar tune even deeper and, in the end, loftier. This is pop music, but the kind that you can completely climb inside for the entire run of an album. And that’s saying something.
John Hubner and Goodbyewave perform Saturday, May 8 at Wooden Nickel Records on North Anthony. The show is free and starts at 2 p.m.