Friday, November 4, 2016

Music Review - Steve Taylor - Wow to the Deadness

Steve Taylor is ON FIRE!
Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foils Goliath is the best album I’ve heard in the last eighteen-odd months. It rocks hard, in a rootsy way, but with enough wit, creativity and soul that I’ve yet to grow tired of it. The album was crowd-funded and fans waited patiently for over a year after the funding goal was obliterated. On top of this it took twenty years for Steve to get around to making this album so I wasn’t expecting anything new this decade. Always expect the unexpected. Apparently Steve and his Foil met with the legendary Steve Albini to lay down six new songs. And to up the “unexpected” ante they added a new member, the bewildering Daniel Smith, a.k.a. Danielson, a.k.a. the guy who discovered Sufjan Stevens.

If you’ve ever heard the plucky music of Danielson then imagine that with an inventive “always in the pocket” hard rock band instead of his usual approximately-played quasi-acoustic backing. This holds true for half the songs. “Wait Up Downstep” starts with a quirky Danielson-rhythm played on acoustic guitar before power chords occasionally punctuate the bridge with Taylor singing. The low key “Nonchalant” seethes with rumbling distorted guitars and Taylor handling lead vocals with Mr. Smith throwing in a squeaky “HEY!” at the most perfect of times before John Mark Painter adds even more grit compliments of a baritone saxophone. “Drats” begins with Danielson singing in his trademark muppet-like voice (seriously, it’s like if Beaker could sing, but in a good way) against acoustic guitar before the band once again hijacks the song with a surging wave of thundering guitars and pounding drums. More bari sax is found on the title track, which is more of a traditional rock song, although one with hand claps and some un-tuned glockenspiel thing that magically fits perfectly in the mix. “Dust Patrol” is pure punk energy and features some of the most ragged and ratty guitars put to analog tape, at least until the bridge when everyone has a seat while Danielson is accompanied by Mexican horns and possibly a mandolin. “A Muse” quietly opens with the lyrics “I wasn’t out late / I barely had anything / Why do you act like you even care?” before lashing out into a soulful, powerful and angry chorus, backing down in the next verse with “That came out harsher / Than when I rehearsed it.” Blistering.

Wow To The Deadness completely blew away my expectations, which wasn’t difficult because I wasn’t expecting anything. However it is a worthy successor to Goliath with its peculiar, punchy melodic rock that leaves a pleasant yet puzzled smile on your face.

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