US - Illinois - Full Moon 103 - 02/24/05
A great title for an album, Wilderness was released in January to good critical acclaim. A person on the meta-critic site (a site which sadly doesn't read this little ezine as of the moment) commented: the thing the critics don't seem to understand with this release is that great arrangements do not make great songs. I'm inclined to agree with this comment. These songs are elaborately put together, there's no doubt about it, but they fail to stick. While curves and turns and outs and ins like having codas for your codas can be interesting, here they just seem the manifest of a real lack of focus in this songwriting. Rather than fully developing a few ideas for a song, Prewitt seems more content to have an unnerving number of intricate sections in each song, wanting to move to a completely new part rather than make the one he's on work. On top of everything, I also keep in mind that we're dealing with the guitarist from twee-pop band The Sea and Cake. This is solo material from a member of a successful band. Always suspect.
OK, let me say: I'm not killin' on this album, it's just not my thing, also I don't want this to sound like a reaction to what other people have said about this album. For some reason I'm just not convinced by Prewitt's singing. I don't know if it's his tone, his inflections, or his influences but something just doesn't seem right to my ears. Totally subjective: this is just how it strikes me. I can't describe it, but I just can't warm up to him. Maybe it's just that I've been listening to that 2004 Michael Gira solo album too much, but Prewitt's voice simply pales to what I really like to hear.
This album opens with "Way of the Sun", which turns out to be somewhat of a thesis for the album: fairly long songs that take a whole lot of different sections to get through, and mostly uninteresting melodies that never get stated the same twice, thus confusing even more than is accomplished by the twist-and-turn form. With that said, there's not a single misstep in the playing, production, or technical arrangement. Those parts are there in good form. "Leaders" is a politically minded song that throws back almost to 70s mainstream rock. I like the sound of his voice more here than on the first song; he stays in a better range, I think. The sort-of ridiculous form is here to stay, of course, but it's way more manageable to me when I'm not dealing
with Prewitt's falsetto. The album continues on with "O, KY", a sort-of confessional of a song. This song confirms the following for me concerning this album: too many "lie lie lies" and "lah dee dahs". Things like that in songs remind me too much of John Denver for even a shred of comfort. In "Go Away", prewitt seemingly wings-it on the lyrics: yeah-yeah/set my heart aflame/she became my everything/do you see the joy she brings?, follows with the most boring harmonica solo I've ever heard, then comes the strings. After that he delivers the best line of the song: Isn't it a twist/the things we might
have missed. "Judy Judy" is a good song. Maybe the best one on the album. For the chorus, it has a nice melody over a neat rhythm. Unfortunately, John Denver follows again with "No More" and "Think Again". The album finishes out fairly smoothly, actually. Again speaking somewhat politically, in "O, Lord" Prewitt sings quietly and thoughtfully, and there are pretty melodies in this song. "Without You" starts another pretty song with a sentiment that is actually convincing. The multi-tracked vocals, steel guitar and strings commingle well. Unfortunately Prewitt breaks the form with a John Lennon impression about half way through, ruining the song.
Conclusion: A lot of people really like this album, but I just don't. I think Prewitt has a lot of potential, but this album comes in spurts, is all over the place, and just never really blooms. And I'm truly sorry for the John Denver comparisons, I know that's asinine, but after being devasted by the same kind of "Lah Lie Lie Yeah Yeah Yea" bullshit on Crooked Finger's recent album I can't put up with it. Just my opinions, of course.
Copyright © 2005 Bill Banks