Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wreckless Eric, Transience, 2019

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

It's only been a year since Eric Goulden, better known as Wreckless Eric, released Construction Time & Demolition which I described as a master class on how a rock record should sound and one of my favorite albums of 2018. Now he's back with Transience, another great, although looser-sounding album.

Eric wrote the songs for this album during gaps between touring, in motel rooms, roadside cafes, parking lots, and launderettes, always on the move, hence the album's title. "I was seeing stuff and writing it down, little vignettes," he has said.

On Transience, Eric is joined by acoustic 12-string guitar player Alexander Turnquist, Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson, Amy Rigby on piano and backing vocals, jazz horn player Artie Barbato, and on drums Steve Goulding, who used to be with Graham Parker & the Rumour and last played with Eric on his 1976 hit "Whole Wide World." Throughout the album, there's a wonderful sense of the band jamming in the studio along with Eric.

There are two autobiographical songs on the album. The first is "Father To The Man," in which Eric sings, "My dad worked in a factory / I tried it too but I couldn't do / With the tedium of the everyday / I flunked out I'm not ashamed to say." But he goes on to say, "Now I'm older I'm a lot like him / History coming back again."

On "Dead End," over strummed electric guitar and 60s-sounding organ fills, Eric tells us, "There's a sign at the top of our street / Dead End / What we see when we get home / Dead End / It's the end of the world / It's the end of the world as we know it now."

The rocking "Strange Locomotion" is a cover of a 1976 song by Kevin Coyne and has the feel of a late-night club gig just before last call. "Creepy People (In The Middle Of The Night)" has the great opening line, "I thought they were Mormons / But they might have been the K.G.B."

For me, the highlight of Transience is the epic, seven-minute, three-part with an interlude, "The Half Of It," about Hollywood. Giving a nod to The Kinks' "Celluloid Heroes" and a Neil Young solo tune, Eric says, "Ray was singing to me / How I might see the stars as I strolled down Hollywood Boulevard / And Neil kept telling me / Tonight's the night."

The song also mentions how "Marie Provost did not look her best / On that January day / When the cops broke down the door into her loneliness," a reference to Nick Lowe's song "Marie Provost" from his 1978 Jesus Of Cool album.

Between the second and third sections of the song there's a nearly four-minute musical drone that, as it's ending, includes the sound of film running through a projector. In some ways this song could be Wreckless Eric's "A Day In The Life."

"The Half Of It" ends with a lyrical mash-up of a movie studio tour and Nathanael West. The tour guide tells the visitors, "Just over there on the right / An angry crowd tore a desperate man in half," which is the ending of West's The Day Of The Locust novel. "But if you think that what you see is what you get / You haven't seen the half of it yet."

Transience is out now on Southern Domestic. Wreckless Eric plays Brooklyn's Union Pool on 6/30.

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