Thursday, July 4, 2024

CD Odyssey Disc 1748: Cut Worms

Greetings, gentle readers and my apologies for my long absence. It has been a busy week, and this next record was very long so getting in full listens took a lot more out of my day than usual.

I’ve been watching documentaries lately that feature a lot of gambling, so let’s set an over/under of 2.5 for this review for “number of times I diss the Beatles.” Wagers set? OK, off we go…

Disc 1748 is…Nobody Lives Here Anymore

Artist: Cut Worms

Year of Release: 2020

What’s up with the Cover?  Creepy window picture. Here we have a guy who looks to be cleaning the window with a paper towel. Probably wiping down the blood from the family he’s murdered. Hence the album title…

Creepy window album covers are their own sub-genre. Marissa Nadler lightly dabbles on “July” (Disc 1314) and Opeth does it twice. Once on “Ghost Reveries (Disc 1083) and again (with an extra helping of creepsauce) on Watershed (not reviewed yet, but you can see the cover here).

How I Came To Know It: I read a review and gave it a listen and…here we are. It’s more fun when someone recommends an artist (because people are fun!) but more often than not it is just my own natural love of musical discovery.

How It Stacks Up: I have two Cut Worms albums, and “Nobody Lives Here Anymore” is the better of the two.

Rating: 3 stars but almost 4

Cut Worms is not a band, but one of those hipster musicians who like to give themselves stage names that make it sound like they’re a band. In this case it is singer-songwriter Max Clarke. This naming convention not my favourite trend in music. I feel like if a boring old name was good enough for Gene Clark back in 1974 it should be good enough for Max a few decades later.

It isn’t important what Cut Worms calls himself, it is what his music is like that matters. Here, Gene Clark is once again relevant, only this time it is stylistically. Cut Worms music has a wistful jangle halfway between folk and rock that is reminiscent of any number of late sixties and early seventies bands like the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and their spinoff acts like Gram Parsons and, yes, Gene Clark.

I love this sound, so this is a feature not a bug. It also makes Cut Worms have a timeless quality, like it could have come out in 1974, 2024 or anywhere in between. His voice would fit right in with those folks as well. He sings mostly in his head voice, with a high and airy quaver which was mostly enjoyable except on some songs that ventured annoyingly into early Beatles territory, where he sounded – unfortunately – like John Lennon.

Generally, Cut Worms is better when he’s landing on the folk side of the ledger. When he gets a bit more pop the guitar has a nice “beach bum” quality to it, but the songs themselves tend to lose oomph. This is important because Cut Worms’ vocals are not going to bowl you over with power; they need all the ‘oomph’ they can muster. When they fade away a bit into the song, I sometimes would find my attention span wandering.

Lyrically, the album features a lovely assortment of delightful phrases, but I didn’t get a strong sense of narrative. More of a feeling that left me a bit uncertain and wondering where to turn. This is an interesting juxtaposition to the songs’ composition, which are well thought out and flow naturally and effortlessly. These are the kind of songs that you’ll swear you’ve heard before, but that’s just because they travel so easily. I walked, ran, drove and worked out to this record over the past seven days and it felt right in every environment.

That said, there are songs that are trying to channel early Buddy Holly. It’s a noble goal but it converts some tracks from timeless to dated (the line is thin). Much like the Beatles, Cut Worms falls short of achieving Buddy Holly’s mid-fifties magic.

“Nobody Lives Here Anymore”’ has so many great songs that it could have easily achieved 4 stars if it had just known when to say when. The record is 17 songs and a bloated 76 minutes long. Cutting just 5 or 6 tracks would have put this record into “near greatness” territory. I was tempted to give it that designation anyway, but good as it is, I didn’t want to overdo the praise. Like people do with, you know, the Beatles.

Congratulations if you bet on the over. Beatles fans – please calm down. If you’ve read my Beatles reviews you’ll know I like them just fine. Mostly.

Best tracks: The Heat is On, Last Words to a Refugee, All the Roads, Every Once in a While, Veteran’s Day, Sold My Soul, Cave of Phantoms

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