Adventures of a University Finalist

Monday, June 27, 2005

John Barleycorn Is Back and Mighty Pissed Off


Wheat - Hope and Adams (Sugar Free, 1999)

Wheat - Raised Ranch Revolution
Wheat - Body Talk (Part 1)
Wheat - San Diego
Wheat - More Than You'll Ever Know
Wheat - Who's the One

Well, the new name has been decided. I am now Lightning Kingfisher. Why? Because it's a bloody stupid name in what is the start of a farcical era of job applications and subsequent rejections (although thanks to Dick for his suggestions that were mulled over but ultimately discarded). Also, it makes me sound like a Bond villain which I secretly enjoy despite loathing the Bond series as a jingoistic relic of a bygone era of chauvinism in English cinema. The man's dick should have fallen off by now too. Maybe that could be the next film's plot - James Bond fighting agains the clock to cure his debilitating syphillis so that he can get back to rutting anonymous ladies as soon as possible. Please send in prospective film titles for my amusement.
So we move from the ludicrous to the sublime with my offering of the second long player by Massachusett's Wheat. Yes, all of those who've investigated the back pages of Adventures... will know that I've already done a "post" on Wheat which in my eyes in a half-finished abomination that I have already apologised for. Don't bother finding it - all the tracks are available at their web page which also features entire live shows! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
First off, 'Raised Ranch Revolution' is one of the best tracks on one of the pantheons of indie pop. In other words, it not only rocks the casbah but adds in a bit of roll and tumble too. It begins with the usual click of snare and arching fuzz guitars until Scott begins his poetic drawl that appears to take the song's title literally; it's White Riot if only Notting Hill had been in a huff about ranch dressing. The song is a perfect example of what makes this band so amazing. The song is just under five minutes long and contains only six lines of relatively vague words that
always end up applying to any individual who listens to them. These boys have discovered the elixir of musical growth and prosperity! it may be a sham but like the great work of PT Barnum you're instantly drawn in to it never to escape until you become a lone maniac constantly shouting "They can't have used mirrors. I saw it happen!". When it finally reaches the end with its simple piano chords, it's as if its laughing at you with a victorious sneer of "That song was only three chords but didn't we make it seem like the greatest music upon the planet?". The bastards.
I mean I remember first hearing Wheat played on Triple J (Australia's head alternative music station) around five years ago and that walk home with my headphones in my ears so transfixed by the music emanating from them it was if I drifting outside by body as it plodded through suburban streets and past empty jungle gyms. Lester Bangs always said that "horrific nosie" was the music that only ever made him feel like not killing himself. Now, I certainly have never sported such nihilistic tendencies as the great man but I do feel like the "glorious noise" that emanates from this album makes feel even more alive. And surely that's something that I'd like to pass on to you, my faithful readership.
'San Diego' is another case in point with computer game bleeps on the synth before the familiar guitar sound and the words "Your love is a parking lot" as the aforementioned guitars begin to hiss and spit with noise that although atonal and disfigured somehow fits into the overall vision of the song. It mirrors an aesthetic which is anti-Spector in its belief in the quality retained by musical imperfections; such imperfections are a constant within life unlike some of pop's candyfloss confections thus making the music more vibrant in its sheer humanity. 'San Diego' also highlights the main flaw behind Wheat that would become all too apparent on their last studio effort "Per Second..."; the double edged sword that is Dave Fridmann's overproduction. It allows for the music to echo in its sparsity creating that specific Wheat sound but somehow at the same time manages to throw in too many unwanted elements. Why the strings??? Yes, they're nice but personally I would have preferred the simple synth bleeps that you can hear in the background intertwined with a simple guitar motif. As so often happens when I find myself confronted by orchestral arrangements in such music, the word "bludgeon" comes to mind. However, at 2.20 there is this absolutely bizarre synth fart that seems to go nowhere in any form of coherent direction other than all over the place. Naturally, I love it.
The good work is continued consistently throughout the album with not a single duff track and I would have included the track for which Wheat are best known 'Don't I Hold You', their most commercial offering from this release, but you can get it on their website for free. 'Don't I Hold You' isn't the best song though in my opinion with that honour going to 'Body Talk (Part One)' with a lyric that doesn't say much but what it does say is so key note perfect that it makes it a classic. The piano and acoustic guitar are slightly Dawson's Creek but the rhythm is slowed down so much and accompanied by multitracked shouts of "Right On!" following each statement of "I feel so low" that I don't ever know if I've just walked straight into a parody. The canter of the two fingered piano riff as the song builds toward its end crescendo brings you back to earth with a thud though. It's not a parody but has managed to tap into mainstream musical archetypes whilst remaining so blatantly left field in its instrumentation to an extent that is just mind-boggling. In 'Body Talk (Part Two)' they even begin to nick from the mainstream artists that went before them with "Goodybe Rosie, Queen of Corona" (a blatant steal from 'Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard'). They even begin to adopt Simon's 'Obvious Child' drumbeat for 'More Than You'll Ever Know' but drown it in so much noise that it starts to sound like Radiohead covering the Stooges. Are those drums just on a continuous tape loop? Whatever the band did, it's an intoxicating mixture.
As you can tell from my eulogising tone, Wheat are now rather defunct after legal problems with their record label led to personal differences. Their guitarist Ricky Brennan is in a new band called Duresse who don;t sound too bad from their demos. Check them out.
PS - Have just been informed that The Graduate would be a good name. Yes it would... poo. I've purchased a lovely eyepatch to go with my new persona and cannot find the receipt. Guess I will have to continue the farce at present.

Visit - Wheat Music
Visit - Duresse