Whether on his own or playing with his wife Amy Rigby, Wreckless Eric is one of the great storytellers in rock. His album Construction Time & Demolition – streaming at Bandcamp – is arguably his darkest and most saturnine record in a career that started back in the proto-punk era. This one’s a mix of snarling, guitar-fueled post-Velvets rock and noisy, dissociative guitar soundscapes. He plays all the guitars and bass, backed by drums plus a horn section on a handful of cuts. He’s playing one of this summer’s series of free weekend shows at Union Pool on July 3 at around 4 PM.
The first track is Gateway to Europe, a catchy, matter-of-factly swaying, brassy yet sobering look at decaying rustbelt European desperation:
Move the people out to where the buses run
But no one knows where they go….
Old glories fade away, derelicted houses, the ghosts of yesterday
Ruined factories on the east side of town
They’re slated for revival, they’ll soon be coming down
“All there is, is time: hold that thought and it’s gone,” Eric muses in the broodingly cinematic miniature The World Revolved Around Me. He follows that with Flash, a chugging, surreal late-night neo-Velvets tableau, its isolated narrator “Sick on Christmas chocolates and cheery Christmas cheer.”
The next track is the obliquely political They Don’t Mean No Harm – “But that don’t make them harmless,” Eric explains. “There’s no democracy, just chrome-plated armor….the dark ages of man crawl onto land. His cynical but sage worldview permeates Wow and Flutter, contemplating rockstar envy over ominous mid-90s Blur chord changes: it’s the album’s most memorable track.
The echoey, clanging, trippy Forget Who You Are could be the Brian Jonestown Massacre: “Everything is gonna be groovy, like some happy clappy Iphone movie,” Eric intones, echoing George Orwell’s observarions on how people become so spellbound by technology that they don’t notice how it enslaves them:
No one can see your face anymore
Nobody one can hear you cry,
They control the circumstances
The how the what the when and the why
Moody Fender Rhodes piano mingles with Eric’s guitar multitracks for a Dark Side-era Floyd ambience in 40 Years, a not-so-fond look back at a dissolute early life and its lingering effects. It segues into The Two of Us, an angushed, swirling blend of new wave and the Velvets. The album comes full circle with the glamrock-tinged, apocalyptic Unnatural Acts: “We were descended from dinosaurs, we weren’t meant to survive.”
There are also a couple of brief, loping instrumental interludes titled Mexican Fenders, the second a lot louder. Guitarists agree that Fender guitars manufactored before the company was sold to CBS in the mid-60s are great instruments – and hardly any working musician actually owns one, since they sell for tens of thousands of dollars on the collector market. Whether Mexican-made Fenders from the CBS era are inferior to American-made models from that time is a question of debate. The consensus is that either way, both typically sound better than the Japanese-built ones. At the rate we’re going, someday Japanese Fenders may be prized for being superior to ones made from slave labor a lot closer to home.