Friday, July 17th, 2009
Review of Wheat's White Ink Black Ink and giveaway
Brittany GrayTo call the Wheat story a long and winding one would be more than a little bit of understatement. I’ve made following the band something of a spectator sport over the years so when word came out that they band – whom you could never take for granted still existed let alone were working – had a new album coming out, a follow-up to 2007’s tentative and uneven but wholly welcome Everyday I Said A Prayer For Kathy And Made A One Inch Square, I reached for the popcorn.
I got a taste of the new material at SxSW in March at a performance that you couldn’t call flawless – the complexities of trying to recreate the new material live with just a trio were evident and the new stuff didn’t immediately file itself in the “win” column – but did nicely showcase the band’s joie de vivre at simply making music. The actual new record, White Ink Black Ink, out next Tuesday, maintains that sense of joy but delivers the material much more confidently – unsurprisingly, this is a band more comfortable in the studio than on the stage. Ink follows the template laid down by Kathy, with the same sort of restless creativity and messy enthusiasm but whereas the ADD left Kathy feeling somewhat distracted, Ink comes across as a more fully realized and crafted record – still meandering but with more purpose and even when it doesn’t know where it’s going, it gets there with more vim and vigor.
So on its own merits, Ink is an enjoyable bit of art-pop but for a long-time fan such as myself, it’s impossible to consider it without wondering how it compares to their early highwater marks, Medeiros and Hope & Adams. And the simple fact is, objectively or subjectively, it doesn’t because it can’t. Wheat have left that the hazy, slow motion aesthetic of their salad days far behind, and even if that period did yield superior songs – I think that’s fair to say – it’s obvious they’re very much occupied and enthused about working in the now, and Ink is evidence that the new direction might yet yield gems as rich as their earlier period. Asking them to go back would be like asking the beautiful wallflower who finally got the courage to step out on the dance floor, as awkward as their moves might be, to return to the shadows. It’s not going to happen, and probably shouldn’t anyways.
And because I happened to get two copies of the album for review purposes – three if you count an early CD-R, four if you count the digital version – I will happily give one away to a reader. If you’d like it, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want the Wheat” in the subject line and your full mailing address in the body and get that in to me before midnight, July 24. Contest open to whomever.
Penguin Books has an interview with Joe Pernice about his forthcoming novel It Feels So Good When I Stop, out August 6, and you can now read an excerpt from it. Pernice will be at the Dakota Tavern on September 24 to play some songs from the soundtrack and read from the book – tickets are $18.50 and go on sale tomorrow.
JAM and Pitchfork talk to The National’s Bryan Devendorf and Bryce Dessner, respectively, while Decider looks at how Matt Berninger draws on Charles Bukowski for inspiration. And Pitchfork is streaming the band’s contribution to a forthcoming tribute album to Ciao My Shining Star, a tribute album to Mark Mulcahy coming out September 29. I will freely admit I have no idea who Mark Mucahy or Miracle Legion are/were, but they’ve got some heavyweight fans.
The Dodos aren’t waiting for their new album Time To Die to leak well before its September 15 release date – they’re streaming the whole thing right now on timetodie.net and Pitchfork has an MP3 available to download. They will be at Lee’s Palace on October 17.
Our Noise is the forthcoming book documenting the first 20 years of Merge Records, and in advance of its September 15 publication date, it has received a swanky website. Tangentially, Pitchfork is streaming the a-side to Superchunk’s recent limited edition 7″ single.