heat wussed out. Surely, I’m talking about them signing with John Mayer’s Columbia imprint, touring with Toad The Wet Sprocket, and shilling singles to Win a Date With Tad Hamilton, right? Well, 2003’s Per Second, Per Second, Per Second, Every Second may have been about as overt as a commercial bid can be without saying “love you long time,” but it also had a once-in-a-lifetime vibrancy to it that was missing from their more bashful previous albums. Refracting big-time college rock hooks through Dave Fridmann’s funhouse mirrors, the Massachusetts trio took nothing but home run swings and ended up with an instantly accessible album rife with potential singles. An instantly accessible album rife with potential singles that almost nobody heard.
Their New Album (no way I’m writing that title again) is the real copout, a retreat back into the low-risk and, this time, low-reward strum, mope, and pine that Wheat made their name on. There are dozens of bands that do this kind of stuff better, including Wheat themselves.
The desire to recapture their former simplicity is understandable, and at the onset, it works. “What You Got” and “Move=Move” make it happen with unfettered melodies and hooks (“you’ve got a place of your own,” “the things that you love come naturally”) that 1999’s hazy, dreamy Hope And Adams (also produced by Fridmann) had in spades. But after those two, the rest of the album just kinda sails. In light of the garish production jobs on the Flaming Lips’ At War With the Mystics and Clap Your Hands’ Some Loud Thunder, I never thought I’d say this in 2007, but Wheat could’ve really used Dave Fridmann back. Perhaps because of Wheat’s modest nature, he never gummed up the works with sonic overkill, and a sympathetic ear turned wisps of tunes (“Don’t I Hold You,” “More Than You’ll Ever Know”) into stylish, near-psychedelic pieces of top-shelf indie pop.
Some of the polish would’ve really helped. Scott Levesque, sounding so confident and urgent on Per Second, falters often, and it’s not endearing so much as it is a cry for another take. The band’s experimental streak often sounds unprofessional—I’d advise not listening to “Little White Dove” and “Init. 005” while surfing the internet; both have jarring interjections that sound like they have to be coming from an extraneous website rather than the album itself.
Elsewhere, Wheat struggle to breathe life into stillborn ideas. The appropriately named “Round the Corners” goes in circles for about four minutes in search of a beat while “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” plays in the background. The half-spoken, half-sung thing is a bad look for just about anybody, especially a lyricist as slight as Levesque. As such, “A Permanent Fixer” turns out to be one of the worst B-sides Dismemberment Plan never released.
This all feels like an apology, but I’m not sure what Wheat has to apologize for. Yeah, they took a crack at the big time and struck out, but it’s not like they were on some Merzbow shit before; an album like Per Second was the next logical step for a band that was otherwise stuck in the ghetto of indie also-rans. I’m pretty certain the release of this album will be accompanied by a lot of “this is the album we really wanted to make all along” talk, but they’ve ended up with the album the rest of us don’t really want to hear.