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Midnight Songs in Time of War
Artist: The Wednesdays
Label: Jackson/Rubio Recordings
Length: 12 tracks / 34:38 minutes

This album sounds like a tape somebody would've shoved into your hand at a sweaty '80s hardcore punk show. It has that flat, poorly mixed production  of early Crucified or Crashdog, kind of annoying in today's climate of perfect sonics but providing a sort of rough underground authenticity just the same. The distortion seems constantly on the verge of disintegrating, yet is somehow held together by the loose songs.

And what kind of songs do we have here? Cowpunk, baby. Punk rock for wandering the range under a starlit sky. Actually, it's more like the garage music of the '60s - that sort of primitive punk/oldies rock 'n roll that Rhino dusts off to put on compilations. The Wednesdays stray from the punk formula in that they actually sing--sort of a mournful rockabilly style--and they aren't afraid to let silence in their songs, with nothing but quiet bass and a scratchy guitar lick piercing the quiet every few seconds. There's far more melody and atmospheric moodiness here than by any punk band I've ever heard. Unlisted tracks 11 and 12 are welcome surprises - acoustic versions of the two catchiest, most melodic songs.

The lyrics are predictably about heartbreak, alcoholic dads, and loneliness. There's one about the confusion over what's true and a lie, but no obvious spiritual thoughts pop up on the album. Except for the title track's lyrics, which are printed in the booklet despite the complete absence of the song on the disc! You get to read them anyway:

"Above is the red star of war. It hangs in everyone's sky. Some of us can see it better than others, some of it consumes, to some, it is a complete denial - it theoretically doesn't exist. Ahhh, O.K., I see. Your star is invisible. Your star is ultra-violet. But it is there, oh yes, it is.  We wrestle not against flesh and blood," and it is midnight in time of war."

If you're looking for something old but fresh in the inbred punk scene today, pack The Wednesdays in your saddlebag the next time you ride out.

Josh Spencer   10/18/99


 
 

Josh Spencer, contributing senior associate editor for The Phantom Tollbooth for over two years, is also publisher and editor-in-chief of spiritual pop culture webzine Stranger Things.  Reviews and articles by him are usually simultaneously published in some form at
http://www.strangerthingsmag.com.

The music on this album is throwaway music.  By that I don't mean that the CD is destined for the wastebasket, but that it's played in a  punkish, free-for-all manner that is at once technical yet loose, stylish yet free of stylistic considerations.  More importantly, it's a lot of fun.

These 3 brothers, "The Duke" on bass, "The Threat" on drums, and "Fang" on guitar, play their Southern-fried punk with a little bit of an Elvis-type swagger, fusing rockabilly and punk in a way that sounds authentic rather than contrived. It's as though these songs simply can't be played in any other way than they are.

Along the way, the boys cover a lot of ground.  Using as the theme for the album their little essay on it being "midnight in time of war" in our modern-day world, the context reveals an album full of the little skirmishes that make up the day-to-day life of a Christian.  Whether it's deteriorating moral standards, as "How The South Was Lost" or "Cowboys In The Graveyard" both describe, the battle to find truth, in "Truth? Lies?" and "Barbed Wire", alcoholism, "Glass Bottle Soda-Pop" or keeping the faith, "Alabama's Midnight Skies," all the tracks keep coming back to the theme of the war going on, without becoming overly moralistic or preachy.  Instead, the lyrics are honest, and interesting.

One of the more clever lyrical twists is found in the final track, "American Midnight."

Believe in what you will
It'll only hide the poison baby
With sharpened teeth you're sure
To taste the sugar from your open tongue now
The moon is red
I'm in a constant state of sleep now
Till you wake up and clean your life
My eyes will never see a yellow sunshine.
Here we see clearly that there is a battle between the general public who are willing to believe whatever, yet can't see their own serpent's tongues, teeth and venom. The red moon indicates that the end is near, and is yet another reminder that as Christians we must always be ready.

All this, in an album that apparently was recorded in a very short time span in order to give a live and loose feel to it. The style of the music might not be my cup of tea, but it's grown on me in a way most albums of the punk persuasion haven't.

Alex Klages 10/20/99

 

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