This isn’t Torpedo’s first go-around. The Swiss band has released an assortment of singles and an album throughout its 6-year existence. The band plays a mix of noisy post-punk but unfortunately, there’s nothing the band delivers to make it stand out. Maybe if this was released back in 1984 or ’85 it would shift minds but it’s derivative and literally sounds like bands from that era. I wish I had more to offer here but it’s been done before and I’m sure there are a number of outfits you yourself can point out that would be preferable. Sorry but Orpheo_Nebula (Broken Clover Records) sounds a few decades too late.
When life forces everyone to pause, it normally takes the steam out of the forward momentum. At this point, there isn’t much need to bring it up anymore because yes, everyone was affected the past couple of years. Fortunately, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for many, as the passion to create still burns bright. Seems that’s the case here for New Jersey’s Well Wisher, led by Natalie Newbold. The band released its debut full-length, This Is Fine, back in 2018, and with four years between releases, the band has tightly honed its skills for the new That Weight (Egghunt Records).
The band’s punk-pop enthusiasm through its opening “Need You Around” sets the tone for the release, filled with flagrant melodies and lush harmonies around its bouncy rhythm, intelligent lyricism, and punchy guitars. At under the 3-minute mark, you don’t want it to stop! But you have to let it ride out, if not just for the sheer crunchy thickness of guitars on “Panic” where Newbold misdirects listeners with cooing vocals before the gradual dynamic shift. The band cleverly plays with those dynamics as Newbold leads with a visceral vocal delivery closer to the song’s end, shifting momentums. For the most part, the band is relentless throughout the release, engulfing its songs with dominating rhythms and loud guitars but that’s not always the case. With “Emily,” notes are sparsely played off a sole acoustic guitar as Newbold sings along. It’s both delicate and deeply convicting, offering another look, a wider range.
Pushing the envelope just a bit further, the mid-tempo “Surface Love” is deliberate in its delivery, with pummeling rhythms, overdriven guitars, and playful dynamics. Guitar feedback and displaced notes sometimes drift in the background, which adds to the song’s charm. This is where Well Wishers seem to shine, acknowledging that a song doesn’t have to move at such a frenetic pace while completely raveling and unraveling at the same time. Newbold knows how to pen clever pop songs disguised at punk anthems, but it takes nothing away from the band. With “29” she sings clearly around the swirling instruments and backing harmony. We can take “Recovery” with its rhythm shift and clear pop direction & melody and understand there’s something special about the band. Its greatest moment is when the band sings in unison in the background. It’s dope AF.
Throughout That Weight, the band’s fiery musical attacks are filled with enough melodies & harmonies to possibly keep everyone satisfied for decades. The great thing about it is both its sweetness and aggression, combined at the same time within the band’s songs. Is it too soon to say Well Wishers is probably my favorite band of 2022? Probably not.
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There aren’t many moments in music that seem playful or tongue in cheek, but with its title, Glad To Be Alive, I’m wondering if the caption for Brook Pridemore’s new release holds any truth or not. With 10 albums already added to Brook’s credit – or 9, depending on who you ask – as well as countless appearances on so many varying compilations, it seems Pridemore is ready for underground domination. Maybe anyway. Pridemore’s return with Glad To Be Alive, was produced by Bodega Ben, vocalist / guitarist for the standout NYC group Bodega, who took on the endeavor of seeing the album to fruition. You may think the album is going in one direction but you may be surprised by the final result.
The anti-folk artist opens the album with the album’s opening title track, a mid-tempo dreamscape of hi-fi lo-fi indulgence, which may be wrapped around a simple melody, propelled by guitar-bass-drums but building around it all. Fuzzy guitars quietly sputter around, as does the delightful mellotron. The song’s power is laced with a subdued charm and it’s completely enthralling. But it’s Pridemore’s words, partially detailing stories, moving through decades with the struggles, and overcoming them but like many, still a work in progress glad to be alive. There’s variety throughout Glad To Be Alive, moving through the direct poppy verse-chorus-verse of “Hunt Sales (no Hats),” mixing in mechanical percussion and atmospheric harmonies to the odd keyboard drive of “The Man Who Tried To Kill Me,” which fills the soul with dread & fascination. In just over 2 and a half minutes, its melody pops from beginning to end.
There’s humor in the realist look of “Ramen Noodles M2” where musically it may sound silly but Pridemore details the struggle, of growing up on Ramen Noodles, then taking us on another journey through “Leave The Living,” and when Brook sings “Sometimes I wanna leave the living / and I take a ride out to the beach / wet sand could not be more forgiving / my problem not more out of reach,” you feel a connection to the words and the pain detailed in just those few words. But the words are juxtaposed around a sweet melody that’s just as expressive.
Throughout the album, Pridemore touches on assorted inspiration and never gives just one close-minded idea of what’s really going through that mind. Pop sensibilities, noisy excursions, sarcasm, and just about everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in. With Glad To Be Alive Brook literally wears heart-on-sleeve, allowing emotions to run rampant throughout the album.