Arliss Nancy

Wild American Runners

Written by: AP on 05/12/2013 20:54:27

Despite claiming copyright for two previous albums already, Fort Collins, CO born Arliss Nancy have thus far managed to avoid blipping on my radar - which is surprising, considering their practice of what I like to call the Great American Rock Song, a style I have counted myself a fond admirer of ever since the release of the Gaslight Anthem's debut album "Sink or Swim" six years ago. So when the group's third album "Wild American Runners" dropped into our mailbox this autumn, it didn't take many seconds of opening track "Benjamin" to convince me this was a record destined for my review queue.

Guitarist/vocalist Cory Call's voice, style of singing and lyrics all bear a remarkable resemblance to Brian Fallon and Chuck Ragan, and instrumentally, too, the music of Arliss Nancy has evidently derived a significant portion of its underlying inspirations from the Gaslight Anthem and, inevitably, Bruce Springsteen. It's all evocative, reverberating melodies and misty-eyed reminiscence, with songs centred on road weariness, longing, lost loves and searching for answers for it all at the bottom of a bottle. In such fashion begins the album with the words, "I've got a friend, with a million sad songs about being hopelessly in love with his ex-wife. He liked to sing 'em, I loved to sing along; used to play the bass. Now I just get high in my room, and I listen to the songs from a better time, when she was mine, before she walked away.", and in such melancholy and nostalgia it proceeds across the next 11 songs.

But even amidst the perpetual blue, there is something infinitely reassuring, even life-affirming about Call's smoky delivery, and the worn-out smalltown bar aesthetics of the music. Still, Call's lyrics, though offering easy access by virtue of their relatable nature, are a far cry from the poesy of Fallon, and the snappy storytelling of Ragan; and especially the more emotive songs à la "Nathaniel" and "Nothing to Show" feel a little too contrived and melodramatic for my liking, with verse like "I love the way the whiskey burns inside of me. I love the way it helps me to forget what you and I could have been. It's cold outside - it keeps me warm when you're not there by my side. So the story goes: nothing changes". Thankfully, the rich and textured instrumentation, in which Chris Love's keys play a crucial role, often comes to the rescue when Call gets a little too prosaic. This is a symptom which recurs throughout the album, and my primary qualm with it.

When he snaps out of it, however, and sounds as scarred and depleted as he does on the tragic "Both Got Old", the protagonist of which succumbs to cancer, it is impossible not to feel something, especially with the juxtaposition formed by an uplifting organ melody making a cameo toward the end. There is plenty of similar detail to be explored in the musicianship on virtually every song, and were it possible somehow to ignore the generally iffy lyricism, the instrumental foundation and Call's infatuating voice together would form a very good album. There is work to be done, too, in crafting more memorable songs more frequently, as one must, as a rule of thumb, endure at least two tracks before a sticker like "Bloodletter" emerges.

As such, "Wild American Runners" is, to me, a decent piece of music, hampered only by its relative lack of eloquence. Not having heard the band's previous output, it is not for me to say whether or not it is better or worse than either of "Simple Machines" (2012) or "Dance to Forget" (2009); but be that as it may, fans of the artists mentioned in the for the fans of section just below would still do well at least to check out the recommended singles.


Download: Benjamin, Troubadour, Both Got Old, Bloodletter, The GB Shuffle
For the fans of: Chuck Ragan, The Gaslight Anthem, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Listen: Facebook

Release date 08.10.2013
Black Numbers

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