Grant-Lee Phillips “Widdershins” (Yep Roc Records, 2018)

With this record G-LP sounds confident, spontaneous, relaxed and angry – it’s a heady brew and provides the fuel to make this his best set of songs for some time. Each song is a stinging jab with lyrical barbs and musical hooks, a riposte to the current political situation. Make no mistake, these are protest songs, subtle and cutting.  Recorded over four days they have an immediacy; they haven’t rehearsed the soul out of the songs which smoulder and often catch fire.

There are many highlights: the gentle King of Catastrophes makes its point in a minor key way – hushed vocals and a pretty tune, it isn’t those who shout the loudest that always get heard. That being said, the punchy Scared Stiff or The Wilderness growl with barely repressed rage and the guitars have a harder edge, the rhythm section a blurry pummel, the sweetness of the backing vocals not quite quelling the wild beast.

Phillips hasn’t sounded so alive since he dropped the Buffalo.  Great Acceleration sounds like an echo of the earlier work, a man burnt up by creativity, inspired, not willing to stand by, and that feeling is matched by the output. The anger is channelled into great songwriting, not easy slogans. You have to listen closely. If you don’t you can just skate along the surface and enjoy the songs for how they sound, and they sound vital. From the opening college rock of Walk in Circles to the apt closer Liberation, Phillips takes apart the times we live in with humour, intelligence and a great ear for a tune.

8/10

Summary

Veteran turns back the clock with vital new set

Author: David Cowling

Punk rock, Go-Betweens, REM, Replacments, Husker Du, Minutemen, Will Oldham, Smog, Whiskeytown, Ass Ponys but probably most of all Howe Gelb, led me on this journey.

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