Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Album Review: Wide Streets - "Saga of The Bruja" - Distilled from potent musical incarnations.

The sophomore album by Wide Streets entitled "Saga of The Bruja" bristles with the raucous energy of progressive art punk that feels like it was distilled from some particularly potent musical incarnations spanning three decades. I can feel the art rock of 70's artists like Television and Talking Heads. the abstract musical dadaism of the Pixies, hyper blue collar fusion punk of the Minutemen (80's) and the frantic angst ridden post punk rock of Modest Mouse (90's) all condensed into this beautiful sound. Like a lot of art rock that leans to the progressive side of things Wide Streets carries the strange lyrics and askew imagery on a solid hardcore musical bed that oftentimes has tentacles of sounds extending out in surprising directions. The eight songs on this album (7 original and one cover) race by. The entire trippy affair lasts only 18 minutes and 18 seconds. The brevity of this collection does not lessen or negate what Wide Streets has created here. "Saga of The Bruja" carries the same musical DNA of seminal art rockers of the past done up their own way and will, no doubt, inspire budding artists to come.

The first track - All The Dogs Who Died In Space cooks along at a feverish pace with a thick bottom and bright lead dashes and vox by Jet Elfman whose voice can have that frantic "guy who is in trouble" tension as he sings, "I got slammed, throwing red meat at moving cars and when I woke up, and when I woke up I felt like all the dogs who died in space."  It moves pretty much in a straight line which is a bit unusual for Wide Streets. It captured me in it's strange grip immediately with just the right amount of edginess coupled with the provocative lyrics.  Frozen Head with it's jagged lines, varied tempos and musical breaks is as dramatic as it is fluid. Majestic staccato lead lines give way to rhythms that hold onto sustains which then fall into a super active chorus progression, "oh but it's better now and if you hurry you can fix yourself." This jigsaw puzzle of a song is propelled by a sweet bass line by Chris Nowak and a jammy musical breakdown with stirring drums by Tabor Allen and off kilter lead guitar by Danny Miller. Miami Zombie with tight angular bursts of drums and guitars, spicy leads and Jet's vocals (that here remind me of an angry Isaac Brock) feels as playful and chaotic as a carnival carousel that is moving too fast. This bath salts tragedy obviously inspired by a real event at one point with the shifting drums, bass line and heavy down beat chops on the guitar almost feels like some sort of punk samba and I mean that in a good way.

I Got Punched in The Nose For Sticking My Face In Somebody Else's Business may be the longest song title ever for the shortest song (it clocks in at 1 minute and 30). It is an absolute head banger with all instruments on full tilt mode. There is something about Bird And Shark that sounds quite celebratory despite some of the violence contained in the lyrics, "I got stabbed in the I.E... I got run down" and later, "I got left in the boonies, drank dirty water, met cartels, big rocks..." The verse with it's bouncy bass line and bright lead lines possesses the same kind of proto punk flavor of early Talking Heads  (think "Pulled Up) but is much heavier and the double time sonic wall on the refrain "but I heard but I heard you went back to Pasadena." is pure proto punk bliss

It was a surprise and quite frankly a thrill to hear Wide Streets' rendition of the Minutemen's Black Sheep. They inhabit the 80's punk strains perfectly even filling out the sounds. I can only imagine D.Boon looking down approvingly.  The second to the last track and namesake of the album, Saga of The Bruja almost feels like a start to finish climax of sorts a post punk epic feel as the lyrics seemingly try to exorcise the witch. "broken by fools, blankets been torn, why won't she go back where she belongs." The frenetic shifty feel of Ramona almost gallops along and even feels kind of cow punky in spots. The tom toms rolling with what sounds like two distinct guitars inter playing leads make for a hoot of a song. The contra-position  of such lively post punk sounds with lyrics that are equally somber, tender and on the dark side , "all your wedding gowns they are worthless, oh you couldn't be more afraid" and "where is Ramona, I might tell you she's gone, oh she's gone away" suggests foul play of the heart or even worse.

Wide Streets makes music that is both sonically and lyrically rich. The density of the interlocking lines of guitars and drums create sounds that sometimes shoot over your head (or right through you). It is the kind of music that you might hear differently the third or fifth or hundredth time you listen. This kind of progressive proto punk sound coupled with slightly weird interpretive lyrics, strong songwriting and Jet Elfman's vocal style that carries this kind of neurotic passion make the blisteringly all too short "Saga of The Bruja" album one of my favorites of 2013. Bravissimo guys.
Robb Donker

NOTE:  You can stream "Saga of The Bruja" here.
Currently Wide Streets first album "Laughing In The Jungle" is included with "Saga of The Bruja"

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