Wes McDonald
The Guest


fter a long day of work (or its avoidance), coming home to a pleasure as simple as a hearty bowl of stew—its dense broth absorbing the room’s light, its eddies of grease promising savory delights—is the kind of comforting reward that balances out the baffling pointlessness of what just passed for a Monday or a Thursday or whatever the hell it was. The exotic curiosities one may indulge in while adrift upon an ocean of leisure can’t hope to wrestle that beast of desire to the mat, the desire of an angry, underfed belly that demands familiar flavors and big portions. And while Wes McDonald’s The Guest may not become the bread and butter of your listening day, it is a meaty record of straightforward, countrified C chord bashing, indie pop smarts, and rollicking energy. And it sounds damn good after another day of humble pie and sour grapes.

Alright, I’m out of food metaphors. Forgive me, but it’s late, the fridge is bare, and I’m very hungry. Ah yes, but after a day of listening to the latest wrinkle in post-rock re-interpretation, one may also become hungry for something else, something more direct in its approach, with roots in the eternal qualities of energy and catchiness. Though art-damaged song cycles and/or plangent tape loops disintegrating into choking death rattles may provide nutrition for the discerning aesthete, the blue-collar heat provoked by life’s demanding banalities is often best quelled by the type of forceful, everyman strumming and huge hooks Wes McDonald provides on this, his fourth solo recording.

The chicken-wire cage boogie of “Oh Yeah I Did, Too” is about the only place on The Guest where McDonald’s amalgam of influences betray him, but that’s small potatoes compared to the joys of “Homestate” and “5&10.” On both, snare drums mimic chugging trains as guitars crest then crash, bearing effortless tunage and wizened lyrics. Elsewhere, it’s all wisecrackin’ country/rock fun like the DBs used to dish out: poppy tunes with loose, warm guitars and sharp singing. Wallow in the friendly, chiming snarl of “R&R;,” and then work backward through McDonald’s generous catalogue, ‘cause there’s more where this came from.

If ever you’ve had a dream wherein John Cougar Mellencamp was opening for Franz Ferdinand and in that dream you ached for the end of show encore where everyone came onstage together and reconciled your need for Americana pseudo-respectability and Anglophiliac melody whoring, then go probe Wes McDonald’s Alabama back alley. Sounds like fun, huh? Just remember to pack a lunch.

Reviewed by: Chuck Zak

Reviewed on: 2005-01-03

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