Well, after Pitchfork's review and the blurb on Jagjaguwar's website, I grabbed this immediately. I always liked John Lydon's vocals more than much of the music of PIL; I liked the earlier Cure's music more than Robert Smith's yowl. This album, then, sounds just right, I thought, as I listened to the first song. But then eight others followed with practically the same melody, beat, and pace. Make-out music for goths, perhaps? The template's appealing for a few minutes, but not over the entire album. It sets a mood, and then the mood sets in and stops any momentum or progression for 90% of the set. Only the keyboards at the end hearken towards another set of sonic possibility.
The band's not bad at what they do, but can't they do more? Combining what indeed is a Lydonesque wail with a steadily downbeat early-80s post-punk progression of chords works, as I said, nicely. But more musical experimentation is needed to offset ennui on the listener's part. If PIL and post-punk had somehow never existed, this pairing would be astonishing. 25 years on, however, to those of us who were around for the original inspirations for Wilderness, this marriage lacks spark.
I do hope the band continues to challenge themselves and stretch their capabilities further. I'm not willing to give up on them. For a comparison of another band on the label that re-works to better effect older influences, try Black Mountain's s/t debut.
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About the reviewer
John L. Murphy (Fionnchu)
Medievalist turned humanities professor; unrepentant but not unskeptical Fenian; overconfident accumulator of books & music; overcurious seeker of trivia, quadrivia, esoterica. … more
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