Kyle Craft “Full Circle Nightmare” (Sub Pop, 2018)

Listening to this record is like mistakenly making conversation with a drunk that you can’t get away from, only this drunk has some great stories to tell. Like the bastard child of Jerry Lee Lewis and Lou Reed he’s imbued with rock and roll – with the mythology, he’s a crumple-suited romantic, forever nursing a broken heart. The opening line of Heartbreak Junky just about sums up his worldview: “So you fell in love, and it wasn’t with me” – love is never easy, love will always break your heart and love is just another addiction. Craft really bangs the songs out, guitars, piano, organ and brass all entwined all rooted strongly in classic songwriting and with such energy and such conviction that you do end up listening to every word.

The opener Fever Dream Girl is a primal slice of rock and roll with piano runs, berserk guitar and lyrics spewing forth like a motormouth deathbed confession. Full Circle Nightmare follows and threatens to cover the same territory, albeit at a slower pace, but you can’t keep Kyle down, he’s never still – the words never stop, guitar breaks are minimal, there’s too much to say to waste time on scene setting. Exile Rag is a kind of countrified version of the same shtick, some steel guitar behind the voice and percussion, for the chorus the familiar fat brass tones breathing their damp breath all over. Belmont (One Trick Pony) is more towards the Johnny Thunders sound, a dissolute rock sound, the guitars loud and belligerent, ricocheting off a piano that sounds like it’s being played with elbows.

There’s a whiff of Grant Lee Buffalo about the gentler Slick & Delta Queen. Craft always crafts lyrics that paint vivid pictures and his voice carries such conviction that you hope that these songs aren’t hewn from experience as things rarely work out. Craft is the archetypal beautiful loser, the one who should win but never does. He’s the kind of performer that you want to hear more from. Though the songs are mostly songs about heartbreak they are full of fun, cutting through to the visceral. The last three tracks open up further possibilities as they broaden the sounds – Cold Calf Moon, is a mini Phil Spectorish production, a wall of beautiful noise behind his voice that seems ideal for musical theatre. It would fill the auditorium and that with his personality that could do it on its own.

This is an expansive record, raw and bruised, romantic and fatalist, full on and without compromise. It is almost overwhelming but once you’ve heard it, you’ll be a Kyle Craft fan.

7/10

Summary

The spirit of rock and roll is reborn

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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