bright lights, strange nights ...
There's been a welcome influx of great to outstanding original music from the region making its way into the whatzup mailbox of late, prompting me to wonder if a new generation of tasteful songwriters is finally arriving, or if some of these guys and gals have been here all along, shouting into the wilderness and waiting for the world to catch up. If you remember, Warsaw, Indiana-based J. Hubner's handiwork first appeared earlier this century in the form of Squarewave, then resurfaced a few years later with goodbywave's retro-futuristic Goodbye, So Long, Farewell, Goodnight long player. Hubner teamed up in 2006 with ace drummer Jack Long to produce goodbyewave's latest, bright lights, strange nights. The result is a hook-filled album that’s not afraid to venture into some dark corners, but nonetheless emerges crackling with life and, well, light.
Hubner applies his deft pop touch to pretty much everything he touches on this disc. His penchant for left turns is evident in the Eels-like opener, "Someone’s at the Door," with its dusky, eerie keyboard-powered drone. It's easy to get sucked into this tune’s hypnotic kick-drum thump and paranoid lyrics ("Someone’s at the door / You better let 'em in / Don’t give 'em what they want / They'll be back again"), which both paraphrase and negate the chirpy, terminally sunny content you'd find on a mid-70s-era Wings album by another of Hubner's heroes, Paul McCartney. Another influence Hubner cops to in his bio is evident in the Jeff Beck-informed "The Difference," which is also reminiscent of Wilco's more swaggering, lighthearted moments. A hint of Joe Walsh vocal inflection gives this rocker just a touch of whimsy.
The celestial icicles of keyboards and gentle acoustic guitars provide the backdrop for "Wake Me When It’s Over," a fine melding of the 70s and 00s pop-rock. If there’s such a thing as a prototypical goodbyewave "sound," it’s inside this great tune. Of course, part of Hubner’s appeal comes from his ability to change styles on a dime, which he does adroitly on the almost glammy "Her Name is Love." A classic chorus of doubled vocals plus a slinky guitar solo combine for a tightly contained, Matthew Sweet kind of vibe here. The rock continues throughout "What She Said," while Hubner turns up a bit on "Bruise," a pop-thrash freakout by goodbyewave standards. This well recorded effort swings from dark psychedelia ("Thread in Your Seam") to Foo Fighters-approved melodic arena rock ("Everyone Had a Ball") without breaking a sweat. Perhaps the biggest payoff on this release full of great moments is "Despite It All," a loudish nugget that's classic Flying Nun-vintage Aussie pop made to leave the primo-era Smithereens green with envy. For more info, go to www.myspace.com/goodbyewave or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. (D.M. Jones)
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