Hailing from Wilmington, North Carolina, here is a story of two buddies, one a drummer from Thunderlip!, one a frontman and guitarist for ASG, never quite being able to make time to write and perform together. Wildlights (formerly known as Crusades) marks the point in time where they have finally been able to join forces. From the sound of this self-titled debut, it’s been worth the wait as they conjure music that marries the sand-blasted desert rock scrawl of the West Coast with the swampy, distorted blues crush of the Deep South.
Imagine if Torche hoovered the uplifting braggadocio and enslaving hooks of Audrey Horne – that’s what this is. It’s emphatically boisterous, effortlessly driving and engagingly addictive. From the opening drumroll and fizzing vocal blast of “Anchors”, it’s a riff-worthy, chorus-led sequence of poppy panache meets hard rocking grunt. There are hints of Arlo’s glossy sheen stumbling their merry way into the multi-tracked vocals of Shi on “Part Of The Sea”. Yet there’s also a darker tone in there that pulls at the inventive crescendos and shading of Baroness’ John Dyer Baizley and the way he pulls out top notes from the most sombre of places.
The slow-quick majesty of the earworm “Snow Song” pulls a choral hook from the heavens themselves. Enigmatically crisp and strangely familiar, it feels like a homecoming – an emotional centre of warmth and hope. It’s a theme that runs throughout the album. There are no true edges here, merely gentle warnings and then reassurance in the soft down of the songwriting.
“Onward Upward” struggles to gain a foothold with its dissolute phrasing, narrow structure and run-time but, to be fair, there are other tracks that could be tagged as equally unadventurous even when they hit the mark. Certainly, the glowing touchstone of “New Year Repeat” corrects any imbalance by building elegiacally to a cosmos-scraping hook and a wonderful arpeggio guitar that trips the light fantastic before plunging to the very depths of the ocean.
Wildlights pull at the loose threads left by others leaving the dark mesh behind them to create effortlessly light, airy, voraciously catchy pieces of driving rock that are an utter joy. Like a meteor traIling fluoresence and fire across a black night’s sky – I urge you to follow.
(8/10 John Skibeat)