Physical copies of Wednesday’s debut full-length Start The Start come packaged with a pair of classic 3-D glasses. Meant to enhance the anaglyph video for single “? Love,” the red-blue shades also offer an easy critical lead-in to discussing the music. I can see the first draft now – talk a little about how 3-D movies flourished in the 1950s, connect it to how Wednesday make music perfect for that innocent time when drive-in restaurants and bomb drills were the norm, and then elaborate. Work in a Happy Days joke and, voila, review done.
Unfortunately, having spent an extended period of time with Start The Start, it has become clear that Eisenhower-sheen was misguided and this review won’t be so simple to write. Wednesday are to ’50s guitar-pop the same way the upcoming Jackass film relates to 3-D cinema. Both feature stylistic hallmarks – elementary guitar and sweet vocalizing in one, things popping off the screen in the latter – but ultimately don’t resemble the older genre at all…sleek production, the fact the thing jumping at you is dong. Plenty of moments on this album might remind you of your construct of ’50s music, but nothing actually sounds like “Love Potion No. 9.”
Which isn’t a bad thing. To draw out this analogy, isn’t the number one complaint against most modern-day 3-D movies how forced they are? G-Force throws all sorts of things at the audience…but that’s about it. A similar problem plagues much of the “throw-back” music running wild on blogs today. Plenty of acts mimic Nuggets-era rock or the plastic sounds of the 80s, but many just do a good recreation and nothing else. Wednesday rarely just sound like a band mining a particular time period dry, but rather a group borrowing some aged ideas in the pursuit of hip-shaking music.
Start The Start crams as many catchy riffs into 35 minutes as possible. Don’t expect complicated song structures or elaborate breakdowns – Wednesday keep the chords simple. Album opener “Start The Start” is basically one extended chorus, ripping ahead on vaguely Strokes-ey guitars. “Hello Myself” and “Why Love Me” up the pace by making the drums move a tad faster, the prior’s beat sounding awfully familiar to the Man In Black’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.” They avoid complications, sticking to a guitar-bass-drums set-up for the majority of the album’s run), and get right to the point – they hammer out pleasing pop, cut out the fat.
The group’s secret ingredient to crafting catchy songs are their interlocking vocals. Co-singers Ryosuke Shimaoka and Tomoya Yamagota weave their voices together to make sickly sweet harmonizing on nearly every song here. Alone, the singing sounds rough, awkward English tumbled out. Joined together, though, it becomes a lovely blast capable of lifting “Hello Myself” and rambling late-album highlight “Still I Wanna Hear You” to particularly tasty plateaus.
Wednesday sound like a Pixie Stick fueled sock-hop, but focus on the lyrics and the music suddenly becomes a lot less Leave It To Beave. It’s not the typical “sad words intentionally dropped on an upbeat piece of music” trick that tends to grow annoying when played too many times. The band sounds way more confused than downtrodden, capturing the darker sides of adolescent longing The Four Freshman ignored – “? Love” finds the song’s protagonist wracking his brain trying to figure out if he actually loves somebody, while “Fill In The Blanks” reverses the situation, the singers begging someone else to make their intentions clear because they “don’t know what you’re thinking.” The chug-a-lugging “Hello Myself” focuses on jealousy of a friend who all the girls love, which causes the singer to bust out such Three Days Grace-isms as “I just hate you/I envy you/What is good about you? which sounds very, uh, un-Three-Days-Grace-like against the music. This teenage madness erupts on album highlight “YOU;” Wednesday slow the guitars down to slow-dance speed, but this isn’t built for prom night. It’s a kiss-off, the lyrics going “Don’t need you no more/bye-bye go-away/Don’t wanna be with you/cuz I’m not gonna be like you.” It’s the one point on Start The Start where the ever-present angst bubbles over into something angry…you just would never guess from the twinkly soundtrack.
Start The Start sometimes misfires – the percussion-less “St. Nicholas Tape” sticks out, Wednesday gets a little too enamored with backwards tape on “7. 8. 9. 10. Tomorrow” and the album sorta burns out at the end – but for the most part delivers peppy guitar-pop undercut by the emotional pitfalls of youth. Like the best 3-D films (this analogy again!), Start The Start makes up for a lack of substance by being constantly pretty. It’s tough to pick out flaws when the band fires catchy tune after catchy tune at you. It’s a collection of well-executed music sans gimmickry. It may be more indebted to the music scene of the 50’s than I thought.