And I am still not entirely sure why. At least, I know why but the fact that no-one else on earth seems to feel the same way entrances me. Are they in fact the last word in mediocrity and I am the only person who doesn’t get it? Or is the fact that no-one else likes them that much the thing that makes me like them a heck of a lot? These are the issues that the discerning music enthusiast has to grapple with. I think the reality is probably just that they are completely fuckin' brilliant and I am smart enough to realise it crossed with lucky enough to have been exposed to them.
I have the 2nd and the 3rd We Ragazzi albums on my MP3 player (The Ache and Wolves with Pretty Lips). I see The Ache as more or less an ersatz WR record, as it doesn’t include their ace drummer Alianna Kalaba on it – which is not to say the drummer they had for that album, Timothy McConville isn’t great, he actually is really great, but for some reason there’s something about that album that doesn’t entirely cut it for me. It might be as simple as knowing AK was not involved but it seems to be a bit too full-on sexy without any soul, like later period Prince. Whereas Wolves With Pretty Lips is such an amazing return to the form of the first album but with extra. Hmmm.
The Prince comparison is a groovy one. Anthony Rolando is such a charismatic person on record (he is the vocalist), I cannot imagine what he is like in real life (I mean I really cannot imagine. The possibilities veer, for me, between the sleazy teen who worms his way into some girl’s pants in the opening scene of Kids and some kind of Carey Grant figure. If those are the two extremes of what an American man can be.) I am also under the impression that the other two members of the band, AK and Colleen Burke are at least as fascinating. Of course I am talking about WR in the present tense but I do believe they presently do not exist as a band, though hopefully the individuals involved do exist as individuals (and they’ve split up at least once before so maybe it’s just one of those volatile things). I have no idea what they’re doing but I hope they have huge egos and occasionally do searches on their names online and they find this and one of them contacts me and tell me ‘hey, I have a new band you might like, it’s called Captains Courageous’ or whatever, and I hope that I hear that record and I like it, but I sincerely doubt I would like it as much as Wolves With Pretty Lips which is pretty much the perfect album of the 21st century as far as I’m concerned – it’s rugged, raunchy, scary in a sleazy kind of way, and extremely rockin’. That last sentence sums up everything there is about my bad music journalism style and exposes it for the crap it is, and it’s particularly harsh when I can’t actually say what I think/feel. Oh well. At least I remember and experience passion even if I can’t make a convincing case for it in words.
<>For instance, the drumming on ‘When Young Lovers Have Nowhere to Go’, which is one of the great standout tracks on Wolves With Pretty Lips. The drumming in the chorus is light, I think a kind of waltzy time (I am unbelievably bad at locating these kinds of rhythms) but it simply provides a skeleton for the raunchy tune; the chorus however is a complete romp drumming-wise, like some kind of rollicking march or the drumming equivalent of juggling big cats. I am absolutely enamoured of that drumming, because it seems deceptively clumsy and I know it is not at all clumsy, it is like some kind of ostentatious foundation to a streamlined building, gargantuan really, but not at any time out of place. It’s mathematically calculated to suit the whole idea of the song, which is the usual kind of seedy lament on behalf of poor people who want to have sex with each other (I hate that coy terminology but it’ll do for now) usually illicit in the sense that they’re already married, etc, yet they can’t afford privacy. I am not sure if I am familiar with any other song on that subject, though I suppose Morrissey might have alluded to the issue. Anyway the drumming on that song is perfect: bold, brassy, stepping on your feet, but ultimately delightfully crassly strong and totally complementary. By suiting the idea of the song I suppose I mean that like a lot of WR songs the song is about being out of control, or wanting to be, usually in a romantic/sexual sense, yet being constrained by pragmatic considerations be they money, violence, social mores, etc.
And then listen to something like ‘I’m Gonna Be Fine’ – that drumming is practically a concerto in itself before the singing even starts, it’s such an amazing testament to the sophistication inherent in popular culture that you can recognise that as a beat when it’s so hard to follow in itself, but so seamless too – it’s probably a testament to AK’s genius as well. I suspect she’s taking the Lindy Morrison attitude: she’s refusing to play through the melody, instead opting to give it its own whole new beat. And she makes it gothically huge, whereas so many drummers (like poor old me I suspect) would just tap-tap-tappity through or say ‘Hmm, I think it’s more powerful if I only play in the choruses guys’. And then, having clobbered the verses very effectively, she takes a whole different approach with the last minute or so where she tackles a straight-ahead musical onslaught by playing on the offbeat, almost ska-ishly. In this case I’m not sure why she didn’t just pummel it four-on-the-floor (once again, that’s what I would have done) but I have to bow to a superior intelligence and craftsmanship at work and concede that it is really very effective, it’s like Tchaikovsky or something. Not Bram Tchaikovsky either.
A smarter and more dedicated mind than mine could do a lot with the different scope of the three WR albums. The first one is over the top heterosexual and as Forrest Redlich is supposed to have said when he wanted to heat up episodes of E Street, ‘fucky’. (‘It needs to be more fucky’; he wouldn’t have said this of Suicide Sound System, that first WR album) It’s very instant. The second one is kind of restrained, in that as per the title it’s a lot more about desire and angst and anticipation (I don’t know if its piano-heavy nature contributes to this but it seems to). The third one is a lot more about identity I would say and a lot of that identity seems pretty gay, though I am not entirely sure I’m reading this right (‘Making You Queens Tonight’, various references to boys and stuff). But in all honesty I’m confused. Maybe it’s not possible to categorise these records that way. I’m happy just thinking about them.