Todd Clouser‘s new album Man Without a Country is sort of a cross between Kevin Salem and Steve Wynn. It’s tersely and purposefully produced by Anton Fier (whose notable production jobs in recent months include sensational albums by Lianne Smith and Serena Jost; he also plays drums here), alongside an A-list lineup of Tony Scherr on bass, Medeski Martin & Wood’s Billy Martin on percussion and drums, Erik Deutsch on piano and organ and Sexmob‘s Steven Bernstein on trumpet and additional brass. Clouser plays guitar with a searing, raw, sustained attack reminiscent of Salem (whose playing most recently spices Robin O’Brien‘s brilliant Dive Into the End of the World), or Wynn in more assaultive moments.
The album opens with Never, just solo Wurlitzer and vocals, a three-chord gospel vamp that reminds of Nick Cave. Throughout much of the album, Clouser sings in a drawl so exaggerated it’s comedic. Whether the buffoonishness of the vocals is intentional or not not is hard to tell. He winds up the song with a long feedback-infested solo that sounds much like Lou Reed’s most recent, extremely vigorous adventures in noiserock.
The brief Clock at the Top of This Town sets a bubbly, metalish looped lead guitar line over similarly bubbly, fat bass and shouted, echoey vocals. The title track is catchy 4-chord gospel-infused backbeat rock, Clouser’s guitar jangling and occasionally screaming over Scherr’s sinuous pulse and the occasional swell of the brass. Pocket Full of Bones has something of a classic Detroit/Sonic’s Rendezvous Band vibe, Clouser’s recurrent, acidic lead line resonating over Scherr’s overdubbed wah guitar and swelling, slipsliding bass.
Clouser drops the vocal affectations on How to Trust a Lover, a wistful, minimalist solo vocal-and-electric-guitar tune, Bernstein and the band eventually adding their own echoey, lonesome spaciousness. Mighty Bird matches a mid-70s Dylanesque electric bluesiness with a windswept, dusky Wynn surrealism. Where’s Her Money From has a slow, talky, skronkily bluesy nocturnal groove that looks back to a CBGB of the mind circa 1983 and what John Cale might have been doing around that time. Clouser again drops the vocal shtick for Kaylee, which evokes Botanica in an pensive, gospel-inspired mode,
Eyes for You flavors a slow, hypnotically enveloping one-chord vamp with increasingly ominous guitar and organ fills over Fier’s leadfoot thump, much like an 80s anthem by the Church. We Are a Generation looks back ten years previously to David Bowie circa Alladin Sane but with a noisier guitar edge. The last track, Pistol Storm, again evokes Botanica, this time in a bludgeoning, bluesy vein. Fans of dark-tinged rock with noisy guitar have a lot to enjoy here.