. issue IV : iv .

by barathron

. artist : warren hixson .
. album : cruel whims .
. year : 2012 .
. label : deep woods collective .
. grade : a .

CruelWhims

More than any other instrument I utilize my mp3 player. (The “Walkman” in all trademarked glory holed up the same birth year as yours truly and so we have shared a kinship.) I do not need to breathe life into the timeline of the mix tape to mix cd and eventual JACKFM programming format (top 100 format record singles across genre put in a bucket and randomized with buckshot the robot DJ) to describe the effect of SHUFFLE ALL on any mp3 player.

All this to introduce this review:

Warren Hixson as Dustin Hoffman and the Union City Catalina Cortez Medicine Show; a doctorate in exponential hooks.

“Paint the Sink” is the opener with the wham wall of surf rock and the tricklin’ waves sound. I was sold from forty-five seconds in but I wasn’t done with the ride: vocals match the rip curl and the wipeout clicks and hums drums’ sticks; clean tight harmony, instrument becoming one in the match of attitude to altitude; the zen garden completed trace with some seriously heavy lines lyrical eyeball lick, barely glancing on my lids with “I turned the light off for you this morning / I turned the light off for you.” (The lady in your life ain’t sh-t-for-grateful when you make up a bed or save on an electric bill; phone chargers do not belong plugged if they are not charging phones; who complains about their outlet being used, sheesh, the hypocrisy.)

It’s a sweet nothing from a split lip and this album keeps spouting and pumping all the way through.

“Baby Boogie” is a retro rerun whamma mamma of UHF collage station identification as all the songs introduce themselves in different tags, all openings and closing establishing separate ends: “cold open” mostly, bookending and capsulating). This is what the B52s sounded like with studio musicians and the singers with their mouths full. (You can see Fred stumbling around an overnight room in disarray without symmetry, ablutions all aborting.)

“Dress Like Policeman” is a little more upbeat and kinda indie rock sound pop chorus, its easy boardwalk strut countering the sickly image of shiny FBI shoes making their way down to the beach with a brand new cooler and an overeager attitude. White Lighters. Don’t Do It. Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band often had this cadence but never the snarl and bite: the cooing voices never quite serve these severances sharp. And, again, the lyrics deserve the headphone experience.

“Summer for Soviets” would be the first background bed music I would pick for a B-Movie Beach Party Retro Rampage Reels convention. This surfy, bat-tussi 1960’s instrumental with a brighter cutting vocal wears toned bikini skin, fleshy enough hip pad to youth without the souring angularity of boney structure and thinning thorny thatches of marked melanin. This song takes Annette Funnyjello in her current decomposition and reverses the process through SCIENCE (the studio).

“Cannibal Jury” goes all over the map with a ska beat breaking fast into a whispery run, a heavy contrast of loud and soft builds tension and allows for a fun chasing beat. Can you surf with an mp3 player? (Can I surf?)

“Model X” seems to be a love song for a girl, and the jangle fits perfectly; the vocals here showcase a strangulated missive without a delivery, as if she could hear it, she couldn’t, this girl is already gone and long gone. Model X is disappearing no matter what, but what matters is the air all around her and what she does in it. “X” and “Cruel Whims” remind me heavily of Beck or Elliott Smith with their biosphere of sounds and layered emotions within layering of tracks, where the strength of the arrangement secures the strength of the emotional state.

“I Feel like Tim Robbins” is the album’s jam band, an introspective walk home on Franklin Street where the streetlights halo into the trees. These obscure lyrics of youth without directions, or certainly boys without ballast, ease and deceive lowered stakes. It’s still life and death as much as anybody else, but you’ll see it in a corner…

…much like “Lost Poodle,” my favorite starred shine: kinda trip-out wash-based grey surf pearl morning dopamine groove. (The phrase sounds way better and built properly in Germanic.) “Lost Poodle” evokes 1990’s radioplay B-sides, a track from some group labeled Alternative by Columbia House or BMG, one of the years after Cobain was dead, but before Billie Piper was the youngest UK solo artist to debut her single at #1. I have needed songs like this to walk home to very early or very late in the morning.

“Candle in the Bonfire,” the closer, is the GREAT trippy kinda casiotone start that goes into fun fun overdrive and describes that same ‘distant intimacy’ attitude I get from Warren Hixson, these Cruel Whims.

He says, “I would light myself on fire just to feel bright.” The modern synth metronome placed against the island archetype sliding steel strings suit themselves to the gentle sound of the vocals (such a great range(,) octavius(,) deserves the full laureling tributary), like Air’s “You Make It Easy” without those Cabernet Sauvignon waves of Beth Hirsch.

Warren Hixson snatches your attention and turns it to spin the album around a few times; and a few times is all it takes to sink wreckage into your brain canals. Gush into Cruel Whims if you’re looking for a good soundtrack to surf the summer nights with style. All the album tracks are named here because if I didn’t tag them out and single them individually I wouldn’t be doing them justice. They all deserve to be on your mp3 player, stacking the shuffle.

by Perkus Tooth

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