When I used to follow Peter Bagge’s comic “HATE”, I really got a kick out of reading his album reviews in the back pages. Meanwhile I post reviews on rateyourmusic.com sort of a lot. So maybe it’s more cool if I post reviews of new/old albums I’m excited about on my own website? Right? It makes more sense to me. So as an intro here’s a review of two Wigwam albums I wrote for rateyourmusic.
High energy, melodically and harmonically creative jazz rock album that took me by surprise. I’ve listened through “Fairyport” 4 or 5 times and it’s still blooming in my soul. Apparently these guys were a big deal in Finland but I never heard of them until a week ago. Even the parts that settle into jazz rock-walking-the-bass-cliché still manage to thrill for some reason. Perhaps because these sections inevitably break into powerfully original chord changes and moody melodies. At times their sensibilities remind me of a harder edged Steely Dan, with touches of Zappa and early Chicago.
The main thing I want to express here is how powerful this recording is. It really explodes with cerebral and emotional energy. The songwriting over-all is up there in the highest planes of the poppy, jazzy, proggy masters. This is creative, confident art, and one of my favorite discoveries of the year. My one beef with the album is the second track, “Lost Without A Trace” which is lyrically very lame and maybe should have been cut. Oh well! Every record has their “Sloop John B”!
Simultaneously tighter, more consistent, proggier, but less appealing than Fairyport, for my tastes. I could do without the old man, Gabriel-esque monologue early on.
Once knee deep in the meat of the album though, I find these songs to be tightly wound, knotty puzzles worthy of repeat exploration. The challenge is slightly unappealing at times, but also a wonder, and endlessly impressive. With each chord change lies a complex rhythmic and melodic arrangement. It’s weird how sometimes it almost sounds like Stevie Wonder jamming, but with higher sophistication and demand.
The key to Wigwam is Jukka Gistavson’s piano and his soul seeking vocals. I can hear his struggle to Know on both Being and Fairyport; reflected both in his lyrics and in his melodic structures, which feel like climbing treacherous and holy mountains: sometimes disturbing, enlightening, and triumphant.
For me, this was the end of the road for Wigwam. Their later albums don’t seem to hold any appeal for me. Being is a grower, and I feel like I may raise my rating of it a year from now. Regardless, there is without a doubt, genius all over this album.
*additional thought: I’ve had this secret fantasy over the years of somehow becoming a producer/confidant to Stevie Wonder while orchestrating a comeback album that would flex the psychedelic and jazzy/proggy aspects of his songwriting: only barely hinted at in his catalog, yet definitely present in tiny bits. Totally eschewing the funk aspect for super gnarly compositions and analog synth sounds. Why is this my fantasy? I DON’T KNOW! I have the same fantasy of being a producer for Billy Corrigan, but for different reasons. Anyway, Wigwam’s Being is basically that Stevie Wonder fantasy come true, so I guess I don’t have to maneuver my way into his social circle and somehow convince him to let me be his new tastemaker.