I had a fun night out last night at the Victoria Art Gallery’s “Urbanite” event. It was great to have a place for people to gather and get a little dressed up. I ran into people I knew, people I sorta knew and strangers that I made new connections with, which is pretty much the perfect night out.
Disc 1074 is…The Delicious Wolves
Artist: Hawksley Workman
Year of Release: 2001, 2002 or 2003. Wikipedia thinks it is 2001, Windows Media Player thinks it is 2002 and the liner notes suggest 2003. The artist’s website indicates it is 2001, which seems to be the most definitive source, so let’s go with that. That site also had it with a different cover, so maybe mine is a reissue. Trying to figure it out was a hot mess, just like this damned record.
What’s up with the Cover? An out of focus Hawksley Workman tries to be cool. That about sums up this record.
How I Came To Know It: Sheila was into Hawksley Workman back in the day, so this is one of hers. I also liked a couple of songs but more on that shortly.
How It Stacks Up: We have two Hawksley Workman albums, this one and Lover/Fighter (reviewed back at Disc 500). Of the two, I prefer Lover/Fighter by a large margin.
Ratings: 2 stars
Technically this album is called “(last night we were) The Delicious Wolves.” This is an awkwardly pretentious title, but once you listen to the record you realize it is entirely appropriate.
Workman starts things off on the right foot, with his two best songs (“Striptease” and “Jealous of Your Cigarette”) coming 1-2 in the lineup and giving you a reasonable expectation of quality to follow. Both songs are sexy and funky. “Striptease” has a cool production, with techno beats playing off traditional guitar riffs. “Jealous of Your Cigarette” is a little crazy with its strange staccato opening, but the B section has such a cool hip-swingin’ groove you forgive the frantic and unfocused opening. These are two quality songs.
Unfortunately, it seems that with two songs under his belt that are enjoyable, Workman seems to think he’s done his duty to the folks who want to hear something nice, and he can now spend the rest of the record showing off how far he can push his sound. I respect that he is pursuing his art and striving to “find the new sound” but the result is an unfocused jumble filled with half-explored notions liberally slathered with excess production.
Throughout the record Workman shows off his strong voice, singing low in the back of his throat and floating into falsetto with equal ease. Despite this, the delivery didn’t hold any emotional gravitas for me. He bangs away on pianos, and creates riffs and melodies that have a lot of promise, but then he combines them with other almost-working melodies and a bunch of layers of percussion and what-not that just left me frustrated with what could have been.
Lyrically, there isn’t much going on here. Lines like “I’m jealous of your cigarette/and all the things you do with it” are clever and sexy but they feel like one-offs rather than parts of more thoughtful and cohesive themes. And that’s on one of the good songs.
The low point can be found on “Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off” where he channels his best Beatnik poet voice and deadpans “cacophony” then a dramatic pause followed by “caca…phony.” Get it? Because it is fake and also like poop? Or something like that. It is certainly like poop.
By the time “Dirty and True” comes along 10 songs in there isn’t anywhere to go but down. We get treated to what I think is supposed to be alternative rock. Lots of bizarre and jarring piano sounds mixed with the clash and clang of rock chords, and falsetto singing that sounds like it is pulled from some high school musical written by Andrew Lloyd Webber when he was 15.
It leads into the album’s final track, “Lethal and Young” where an echoing piano bangs away as Workman does his best impression of Roger Watters at the end of “The Wall” to make us all feel thankful that we’ve gone beyond the wall of whatever musical theatre that has just been inflicted on us. It was a far cry from “The Wall” but I have to admit I was glad it was over.
On his next album, “Lover/Fighter,” Workman succeeds in pushing the boundaries of pop in a way that was both enjoyable and thoughtful. Knowing he can do it made the hot mess of “The Delicious Wolves” all the more annoying. I guess to make an omelet, you gotta break a few eggs.
Best tracks: Striptease, Jealous of Your Cigarette