Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Listen/Watch: Wilder Maker - "Drunk Driver"

photo by Chris Weiss
Earlier this year when Brooklyn based rockers Wilder Maker announced their third full length album Zion with the rambunctious first single "Closer To God", I was pleasantly surprised at the return to form of sorts from singer/songwriter Gabriel Birnbaum and co. after their "New Streets"/"Only Child" 7" they released last year. While Wilder Maker can hardly be considered a particularly rowdy bunch, their songs generally are delivered with a touch more grit than the marvelously sun-kissed jam of the non-album single. "New Streets" arrived not only with a delightful sense of ease but also highlighted how great the band are at crafting scenic narrative with a definite pop sensibility. With "Closer To God" however, the band turned their sights toward encapsulating not just the city they all call home with its various bevy of easily pursued vices but also to the slow burning place-setting narrative structure that defined much of their earlier career as disciples of longform pop songcraft with the twist being an ability to condense the longform aspect without losing any of their storytelling capability.

"Drunk Driver", the second single from the band's upcoming album, shifts the energy away from the turbulence of "Closer To God" towards something a bit more introspective. Lead by Katie Von Schleicher, "Drunk Driver" is a testament to narrative restraint. With a title like "Drunk Driver", the listener immediately conjures all sort of expectations of what the song will be, where it'll go and the band subvert them effortlessly. "Drunk Driver" starts as a trickle - Gabriel Birnbaum's guitar and Von Schleicher's keys delicately setting the scene before the vocals even enter. Von Schleicher does a great deal of foreshadowing from the jump: "Those who rise on handouts sit on paper thrones//It just takes on lit match instead of time to fuck 'em in their hearts". They're delivered with a casualness that belies their ominous nature as Von Schleicher coasts from moment to moment and lessens the tension by virtue of not speeding to the point. Like a guessing game with too many rounds, the secret seems less imperative the longer it's not just freely given.

And then excellent songsmiths that they are, there's a colossal shift in energy like a damn breaking and Von Schleicher's words come as the deluge. Her detailed descriptions of the city take on less of a sense of wonder with more of a distraught agitation and beleaguered weariness and then it comes - slight and subtle enough that you almost miss it: "I loved her with no thought for me as reckless as a drunk driver exhales and turns the key". Wilder Maker manage to subvert expectations so resolutely and masterfully while still delivering an exceptionally engaging song. Smaller details and moments like Von Schleicher's pained "Oh God" and the group's repetitive "And the band plays on" building tension before the band just let's it all go.

Zion, the third full length album from Wilder Maker, is out July 13th on Northern Spy Records and is available for pre-order now.

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