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   Thursday, July 12, 2007  
So then, this new Wheat record: 'Stunning return to form' or 'arrogant and simply shoddy'? reallyrather has long been in this band's corner but after six weeks or so of fairly constant exposure to the admittedly terribly titled Everyday I said a prayer for Kathy and made a one inch square is it perhaps time to tiptoe quietly away? Let's see, how shall we put this ... NO! Certainly, there are obvious ways this effort can be knocked. Scott's voice sounds more careworn/just plain shot* than ever; 'production' is loose/undtidy*;two-and-a-half of the tracks are somewhat undercooked/lazy meanderings*. But in no way does any of this render the record 'unlistenable', far from it, and at its core are eight super-solid slices of gorgeous wholegrain Wheat-y goodness...

[*delete as preferred]

Pounding electric guitar and drums smash into Scott Levesque's signature balefulness at the start of opener Closeness. And the first chord change is so theirs too - if this blog's own guitar had enough strings on it I'd figure out exactly what it is. The cathartic clanging eventually subsides into organ and low rumbling, like a departing storm. Though it's even more familiar having been on the taster EP earlier this year, Brendan Harney's sub-funky drumming on Little White Dove still, erm, kicks ass; the deft application of loosely-strung acoustic guitar enhances this and several other of the album's best moments. Next up is the fantastic flat scratch of catchy major chord chugger Move=move and that's then instantly topped and contrasted by as lovely a song as this combo has ever created.
Come the year's end I had angels watching over me will rank as one of '07's prettiest moments allowed the NME in the course of slagging the album generally. 'There are dozens of bands that do this kind of stuff better,' Stylus pronounced, wrongly. Only Wheat makes this sound, the aching, crushed melodicism pushed by clanging guitar and fat artful drum slaps. In a parallel universe the pretty acapella coda would be taken up by a rapt and willing capacity stadium crowd. Dream on...
The next couple of tracks carry inscrutable names - init. 005 (formerly, a case of...), Saint in law - and, frankly, aren't worth pondering since they amount to very little. (The last couple of minutes of the former sounds like a White album outtake.) The cavalry comes in the percussive bustle of What you got, another sly nugget of premium pop. Some sweetened-up Sea & Cake-like chiming guitar figures book-end Round in the corners while the part-spoken An exhausted fixer is another welcome Hope & Adams throwback. The album glides out rather blissfully on the bloopy synth-'n'-strum instrumental Courting Ed Templeton.
Scott and Brendan can continue to insist that Wheat is an experimental art project if they wish but rr has always heard a mildly Quixotic but irrespressibly melodic indie pop-rock band. Their vocal-guitar-drum stylings remain distinctive and, at their best (ie most of the time), peculiarly affecting. If you don't yet have them, all four albums should be sought out (most definitely including the grossly maligned hi-gloss Per second, per second... which is stiff with sparklers)...

Hopefully, this blog will catch Wheat tonight at the Luminaire and again at the weekend at the Latitude Festival in Suffolk along with Annuals, Loney, dear, Arcade Fire, Herman Dune, et al. Also there should be Sheffield folk-popsters Monkey Swallows the Universe whose debut album was patchy but Little Polvier (from the forthcoming follow-up on Loose Records) is one of the charmers of the year so far:

What?! Too damned perky and twee by half did you say? Fear not, black-hearted choirboy Nick Talbot is back to remind us that we're all doomed. Trust is the advance party from Gravenhurst's upcoming album The western lands:

Finally, after Wheat, another long-term blog favourite Rilo Kiley also returns with The Moneymaker. Sounds like they've been listening to a lot of Berlin-era Bowie recently. It's bold move but a good one? As the man says, you decide...

   posted by SMc at 3:59 PM |