Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3
…tick ...tick …tick
uitars don’t kill people, outlaws with guitars do. …tick ...tick …tick is guitar-focused in the same way that Westerns are gun-focused: men do the talking and use the things, but you know it will be the guns that settle it all. Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3 (a few shy of the Dirty Dozen or the Magnificent Seven) are the ragtag band of gunfighters taking their weapons down from the wall to defend the town from the evil synthmen one last time. Not with fancy riffing and trigger-twirling licks, but the old-fashioned high noon way.
Wynn tips his hat to a few other outlaws on …tick ...tick …tick, as well. “Bruises,” with a balls-out drum intro and “This is how you learn to fall” chorus is a dirty sequel to Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly,” complete with a nasal drawl augmented by blue-sky power chords. “All The Squares Come Home,” like Petty’s best work, channels kids-after-school garage mischief. But the Miracle 3 fall somewhere between the Heartbreakers and Crazy Horse, less polished than the former but lighter on their feet than the latter. Wynn’s songs emerge from the swampy, ramshackle sound in outline at first, then filling out colors between the guitar lines, sometimes by dint of sheer willpower. “Killing Me” rides a single acoustic guitar chug, à la Bo Diddley, to squalling guitar Valhalla. “Turning of the Tide” adds a quasi-martial strut and Wynn’s voice gets a little more meat on its bones, “Don’t be afraid / It’s just the turning of the tide,” before a raucously righteous guitar solo sends the bad guys running.
Wynn’s voice isn’t his strongest asset; the ungenerous might even call it weak, a nasal Petty-ism without Petty’s ability to crack open and take flight. But years of experience, in the Dream Syndicate and half a dozen other bands, have taught him to use it well. On the opener, “Wired,” Wynn’s voice comes coated in the same tinny distortion as Julian Casablancas’ on the first two Strokes albums, making it brethren to the ripped-and-torn guitar at the song’s center. Even on the cleaner, more elegiac “Deep End” Wynn’s voice is kept treble-thin and low in the mix, either as a mark of emotional fragility or to keep the focus on Wynn’s Clint Eastwood-style, wounded tough-guy lyrics (“It’s more than sink or swim / I’d rather not go in… the deep end”) and those redemptive guitars.
And what about the love interest? David Fricke calls closer “No Tomorrow” Wynn’s own “Layla,” and you can see what he means, although “Tomorrow’s” two part structure has nothing to match the awfulness of Clapton’s shrill outro. Instead, Wynn, eyes squinted against the sun, sings “Ain’t that just like you / Shining all the lights on yourself / Ain’t that just like you / Firing all your guns at once.” It all builds to double-guitar crossfire in the streets, as Wynn sings “Fade away…” again and again, the final showdown. Drums and credits roll, the song turns around, and Wynn rides into the sunset singing, “Now you say the end is near / Well I’ve been hearing that for years / The shaking followed by the years / Anger and then shifting hear / And if the world must end / There’s no need to pretend / I want to love you like there’s no tomorrow.” The townspeople are safe again, and everyone wonders: Who was that mysterious guitar-slinging man?