Wand - Hard Knox
公司厂牌：Ecstatic Peace/Universal Records
We’ve been readers of the music blog scene for years now. We were reading music blogs before everyone had a music blog, and our own music blog wasn’t so much as an iota of thought several years ago. Although our blog is young, we were there to see the rise of Pitchfork and its effect on the scene. We were around when Chris began gorillavsbear and Brian’s been reading Aquarium Drunkard religiously since that site began pumping out MP3’s from Los Angeles. We’re acutely aware of the purposes of online music websites, but this also makes us unfortunately knowledgeable about their drawbacks, too. We dislike the rating system of music reviews, and we’re even more averse to bashing albums. If you’ve been a regular reader of our site, you’ll see that we’ve been churning out full-length album reviews at a rate damn near impossible for three busy writers that have taxing day jobs. With all of the writing and reviewing we’ve done, we’ve yet to bash an album and we’re extremely proud of that here. If an album makes it onto our site, we feel it’s worthy of extensive review and purchase. Consider it our stamp of approval. We get inundated with really bad music daily and we choose to post the best of the best. We “unpack our bags” about why we think albums are good and don’t waste our energy and intelligence on albums that are sub-par. Pitchfork has created an empire both lifting bands out of obscurity but also shattering dreams. That’s not our style here. We can write like those guys, but you won’t find the rants around here.
The central problem, however, is based around an article I read last week about how music blogs serve to rave bands that really aren’t very good and discuss mediocrity as if it was the next Neutral Milk Hotel or Radiohead. This draws my ire big time. The sheer nature of our enterprise here at Citizen Dick is to write about good music and leave the bad music completely out of the equation. If our central job is to become a PR agency for shitty music, we’ve certainly lost brain cells at some point and have lapsed into a completely inconsequential hobby. This idea that the music that bloggers post is overhyped is ludicrous, and certainly doesn’t apply to my reviewing and online writing. I want to smash my Macbook over someone’s head every time I hear this sentiment. The fact remains that noteworthy emerging music deserves discussion, and for every great album that “makes it” there are another fifty excellent records that barely sell enough to warrant enough dough for a second release. We feel our job here is crucially important, and that somebody has to review great records positively and without needless bashing. Some albums you don’t know about are amazing, and we’re here to explain that. This new WAND album coming out on May 19th is one of those albums we sincerely hope you’ll put your ears to in 2009.
James Jackson Toth is a dude I can get into immediately. Formerly known as Wooden Wand, Toth has decided to change things around a bit moniker-wise but the brilliantly simple and dark country blues balladry he’s been known for is still front and center. “Hard Knox” is a 14 track wordy escapade that wickedly haunts you from beginning to end, and the collection of rare B-sides, home recorded tracks, and rarities is so good we can stamp it as excellent immediately. I’ve played the record in its entirety in excess of fifty times since I received it last week, and there isn’t a record in 2009 I’ve given this much attention to. It’s filled with lyrical mastery and ear-pleasing tone. It’s rough and edgy but beautifully transcendent at the same time. The tracks hold up well individually but also mesh together to give you a great inside look at Toth’s muse; It’s heartache and contemplation that drive this thing, and if you’re not listening to “Arriving” as you’re reading, please do that now.
It doesn’t take too long to fall into the album’s tone, as “Arriving” is a dark, dark song with amazingly poetic word-puzzles and imagery about a girl with thick skin. Toth chooses the poetic concept of cataloging, where tone-drenched images are listed with very little explanation. Quips of lyrical brilliance punch you in the face from the first note of this track to the last. Brooding imagery of serpents, decay, worms, fruit, is so well-placed in the track. It’s somewhat narrative, as the evil woman finally reveals, or “arrives” at the end and her ill motives are laid bare. The song rules and Toth’s decision to start with it is wise, as it sets pace and draws the audience completely in.
As mentioned, the poetic structure of this album is loud and clear. Toth knows what he’s doing and he’s incredibly intelligent. “Eyes” may be the best track on the album, and some of the lyrical business is superb. Flying aces, crosshair bows, fugitive liquor, solid snow. Alien strangers, first through seventh row. Images erupt from the song like dandelions in your yard and stick in your craw long afterward. Tracks like “Saturday Delivery” and “Lady of Situation” are more overtly positive and uplifting in their musical arangement, but nearly every track focuses on both the good and bad of our existence. Toth pines in many of these songs about how it’s impossible to go backward and erase the past but the past must be fully embraced to move forward. It might be too late to settle bets beneath the ocean. The dawn awaits.” Warm tones, beautiful acoustic arrangements and pleasing vocals are the standards here.
Toth’s gravelly and hardened vocals are a major reason for this album’s greatness. “Blamelessness” is an edgy and low-fi track where his vocals become deeply ingrained and seared in. Likewise, in “Chrome” Toth makes a simple amplified guitar in a basement sound brilliant. His melodic vocals and well placed double-harmonies bring blues, country, poetry, and edgy alternative vibes to listeners. If there’s any specific track where everything balls into one, it’s “Soldier Movies” at the album’s close. Endearing and softly yearning, Toth emits an aura that’s impossible to forget. The closing track is significant because it brings home the ideal emotional conflict of the entire album. Toth is obviously reminiscing about a rocky past, but seems completely okay with it. There’s a comfort to his lyricism and imagery.
There are 14 tracks on the record to wrap your brain around, and I’ll emphatically state that each one of them exhibits its own unique style and value. This isn’t an album to be missed this year, and to fully let Toth and WAND into your arsenal, you’ve got to spin the whole thing repeatedly. We’re confident this will be a mainstay for you, as it has already become one for me. Enjoy “Arriving” for free and pick this up on release day.
03. Lady Of Situations
05. Saturday Delivery
07. All These Generous Men
10. Dead Of Night
11. Dark Is Bending
12. The Drag Pit
13. Death Dealer Blues
14. Solider Movies (For Larry McMurtry)