Whiskeytown – Fucker

Fucker (Bootleg, rec. 1998-1999)

B-

1. In My Time Of Need (Alt. Demo Version) 2. Bar Lights 3. Win 4. Comfortable Only At Night 5. Out Of Time 6. Sit And Listen To The Rain 7. Leave The Lights Off 8. Bound To Happen 9. What Makes The World Like This 10. Hurts Sometimes 11. Tearing Me Up Inside 12. Medicine 13. Today 14. Clearly Destroyed 15. Breathe 16. Fool

 

In my continuing effort to help you, the reader, bridge the seemingly vast, unintelligible stylistic gap between Strangers Almanac and Pneumonia, I give you… more unreleased Whiskeytown shit. First off, there are several different versions of this collection floating around; mine is basically a compilation of all of them. Second, it’s not a finished album like Forever Valentine; it’s more like a regular bootleg compilation of outtakes and a couple of alternate versions. It was clearly culled from several different sessions, first of all; I’ve read that a couple of these songs might even originate from Ryan’s solo Heartbreaker sessions, which seems plausible to me, seeing as an alternate version of “In My Time Of Need” is on here, and “Medicine” sorta sounds like it could have been on that album. Also, it’s sequenced really weird and the sound quality varies a bit. But hey, if you’ve sat through as much hissy sounding, audience recorded crap as I have in my quixotic attempt to own like 8,000 versions of the Stones doing “Brown Sugar,” then the fact that the sound gets a bit muffled after the first two tracks probably won’t be cause for despair.

I’m only reviewing Fucker (I dunno, the lyric in “Breathe” sounds like “fuck her” to me… that would’ve been slightly more badass of a title) because it shows a side of Whiskeytown we don’t really get anywhere else. It’s a rockist side, but it’s also a poppy side, and the two sort of awkwardly meet in the middle as a shaky compromise. This results in a couple of minor gems, like the cute country-pop songs “Leave The Lights Off” and “Bound To Happen,” but overall I’m slightly less than satisfied with these strains of Ryan’s songwriting. I’ve said this in previous reviews, but the guy really struggles with writing really memorable teeth-baring rock songs. I think it’s mostly because when he tries to, he seems incapable of writing actual riffs, instead resorting to angry-sounding chordal guitar stabs. When he manages to come up with a strong melody to go along with them, which happens frustratingly rarely, it can go a ways toward negating some of his issues with his rockin’ shoes – see “Win” and “Breathe” here for two fine examples. But when he doesn’t, well, it just means that thrashy stuff like “Comfortable Only At Night” or “Clearly Destroyed” just aren’t gonna stick in my mind too long. He also often sounds like a bratty, moody teenager raging at his mom for sending him to bed early more than a Satanic, guitar-fed beast like he’s supposed to when he tries to rock. Though at least the songs here are energetic, and certainly far from offensive; these problems would only become really egregious later in his career after his tastelessness and ego had expanded to epidemic proportions. The poppier stuff has some rough edges too, and the teenage juvenility remains… “Hurts Sometimes,” “Today,” and others aren’t hard enough to be rock, and not catchy enough to be considered solid power pop – and an uncomfortable seat between the two isn’t the most ideal place to be.

But hell, at least you can see Pneumonia coming now. Nothing you really need to hear unless you’re already a hardcore fan, but lots of stuff you probably won’t mind hearing anyway.