Photo by Mark Guthrie
It’s been a little while since we’ve touched base with the energetic garage rock four-piece Paddy the Wanderer. They’ve kept a decent concert schedule this summer, playing both the Deutschtown and RANT festivals, as well as opening up for Seedy Players’ album release show back in June. But their primary focus has been on recording a brand new album of their own, and now its release is finally upon us. The seven-track-long Facts for Whatever drops on Saturday, October 14th, with a celebratory release show at Brillobox the same night.
Safe to say, it was worth the wait. Produced by Delicious Pastries’ Vincent Poprocky, Facts for Whatever accomplishes an impressive number of balancing acts. It’s raw, yet thoughtful; classic, yet creative; commanding, yet exposed. It’s fine-tuned aggression, power wielded with a deft hand. They’re excellent at smacking you in the face with a killer wall of sound, but also at building it up, layer by layer, and bringing it down before you drown.
Fans of The White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, and even fellow local band Grand Piano will probably find plenty to like here. Paddy the Wanderer is a garage rock band that knows when (and how) to jam out. They can extrapolate for minutes on musical themes and feelings (the first track alone has a 6:45 runtime), but not in a way that leaves you wondering when they’ll get to the point. The jamming is the point. Not every band achieves that. To do so indicates a knack for experimentation, as well as a finely tuned ear for which experiments succeed and which ones don’t.
A key component of this success is the sheer instrumental skill brought by each member. The centerpiece is Joey Troupe’s impressive guitar chops, running the gamut from gritty to psychedelic distortion. With as immersive and multi-layered as these tracks get, it’s easy to forget that he’s the only guitarist in the band. His distinct vocals, which somewhat recall The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, are powerful too. The occasional instances when I couldn’t discern the words he was singing didn’t impede my enjoyment of the songs. Tim Kelly’s drums also shine. He absolutely blew me away with the percussive gymnastics he pulled off in “A Crowded Room,” the fastest song on the album. But even in slower, more measured moments, the rhythms are intricate and nuanced. He knows just how, and when, to use every part of his kit. Zach Dowdell’s keys add essential dimension as well. His solos in the slower songs (and prominence in the fadeouts of a few others) are cool as hell, and his sound ranges from classic piano to wavering synth-y goodness. Finally, Bob Hartle’s bass is the pulsing undercurrent that brings it all together. I especially appreciated his contribution to the slow, minor-scale-heavy, almost seductive introduction to “By Design.”
Four talented individuals don’t always make for a cohesive whole that jams effectively. But in the case of Paddy the Wanderer, they absolutely do. Facts for Whatever is confident, assertive rock that goes to vulnerable, honest, and sometimes fearful places lyrically. This contrast is striking. It shows that these songs are both the band’s processing of their anxieties (internal and societal), and their attempt to fight back, to regain power over them. Among other topics, the album ruminates on being surrounded by fear-mongering media in these trying times (“Feel Good Blues”); desperate, solitary late-night introspection (“Nervous Nights”); and the feeling of anxious isolation while surrounded by people (“A Crowded Room.”)
There are, however, glimmers of hope and perseverance in the midst of the speaker trying to navigate these demons. One is the sheer strength and energy of the music itself. Another is the openness with which these worries are addressed—fear thrives in the dark, and speaking it to others who likely wrestle with similar issues brings it into the light, while adding depth and resonance to each track. Finally, there are softer, more subdued songs mixed in with the powerhouses, offering a welcome breather and acknowledgement that even when all seems chaotic and overwhelming, happiness and comfort can still be found. Fittingly, this sentiment is explored most on the album’s closer, “The Vault.” Troupe sings lines such as, “When it echoes, we’re listening/We don’t care where you’ve been/Under flames, under city lights/We’re right, once again.” In the bridge, rhythmic, carnival-esque keys provide a background for a high, tinkling, pretty glockenspiel line. That hopeful riff is repeated in a guitar solo, followed by a chorus of voices singing it on an extended “oh.” This progression offers a sense of camaraderie, an extended hand, and that makes for a satisfying conclusion.
There are many such lyrical and musical gems throughout the album. But don’t just take my word for it. Listen for yourself, and you’ll find that Facts for Whatever will melt both your face and your heart.
The album will be available for streaming/download on various music platforms (including Bandcamp) on Saturday, October 14th. (Preview the second track, “A Crowded Room,” below, or by clicking here.) It will also be for sale at their release show that same night. They’ll be playing at Brillobox, with Delicious Pastries and Honey opening up, for a seriously stacked bill. Tickets will be $7 at the door (which opens at 9 PM), and the show is 21+. Check out the event page for more info. And make sure you’re following along with PTW on Facebook.