Feb 17, 2015

Album Review: Wrinkle Neck Mules - I Never Thought It Would Go This Far

Fireworks stand - you can light a bottle rocket in my hand. There's a fine line between disaster and the best-laid plans. -"Whistlers and Sparklers"


Wrinkle Neck Mules are a sixteen-year-old dual-lead-singer Americana band with a heavy dose of Appalachian twang and an extra helping of cryptic absurdity. That's not to say they're a novelty act - the absurdity is found in their uniquely specific descriptions of the seedier sides of rural life, bound together by an abstract painter's sense of aesthetics.

You listen to a Mules song and first think "this sounds great!" Then you get a vague idea of what the song is about, despite the accents being so heavy that it's hard to entirely tell what's going on. Next, you read the actual lyrics, scratch your head, and find yourself back at "this sounds great!"

That's certainly the case on I Never Thought It Would Go This Far, the band's sixth full album. Take opener "Whistlers and Sparklers," for instance. On casual listen, it's a grimy country-rock jam about traveling fireworks salesmen. Or is it? The narrative throws in "I think we tapped the wellspring" and "bits of code" and suddenly the song isn't so easily understood. Maybe it's about overcoming difficulty; maybe it's about songwriting - as the second verse seems to allude to. Maybe it's all of that. All I know is it's a killer tune whose final verse is an inventory list of different types of fireworks. What's not to love?

I was convinced "Beehive," my favorite track on the album, was about a drug selling collective, but truth be known, I don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's a swaying anthem, all drawled harmonies, smoke, and a children's kick drum thrown in for good measure. I find myself seeing the parallels between drug dealers and a touring band in the arcane arrangement of words.

Other standouts include "Release the Reins," "Days Don't End," and "The Line's Been Drawn." If you're looking for simply told tales and clearly drawn lines, Wrinkle Neck Mules aren't going to give it to you. This is Faulkner retold by an eloquent meth head, Gothic sermons repeated by a hopeful drunk. No thread of plot or intent will be easily teased from this fabric and that's what will keep the listener returning, alongside the kickass hillbilly rocking of course.

Maybe this fine album isn't to be analyzed at all. Find your own meaning in these literate, attitude-driven, poetic, anti-bucolic, abstruse (and surprisingly fun) lyrics and run with it. It's not like you're going to stop tapping your foot, either way. It's all too damn catchy; and so steeped in shine and cooked over some ridge dweller's firepit, I Never Thought It Would Go This Far can't help but captivate.


I Never Thought It Would Go This Far is available here, iTunes, Amazon, etc.

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