Peter Wolf’s Midnight Souvenirs is a new decade, Americana, songwriting gem. This is not a joke. Many records arrived in the mail this past month that deserve some attention or brief mention first off. Great releases by The Morning Benders as well as Jakob Dylan’s, T-Bone Burnett produced, project, plus two advances I’m probably not supposed to mention yet by Rockford, IL’s own, The Pimps, and Chicago’s heir to the throne, Cameron McGill and What Army. The latter’s gonna be real hard not to talk about later this year.
A few other releases by superstar indie duos, Broken Bells (James Mercer of The Shins and Danger Mouse aka Brian Burton), plus She & Him (Zooey Deshonuff and Montgomery Ward) slipped in and out of the player to less than memorable listens. Frightened Rabbit and Dr. Dog tossed out some new duds n’ thuds as well that on first listens didn’t do much to keep me awake. Let’s be fair, I can’t decide yet if they’re just a case of bad timing releases, wrong season or not enough listen to me again and again power? Maybe they blew their loads on previous releases I did enjoy greatly? Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms by Frightened Rabbit off their last record, Midnight Organ Fight, may have raised the bar too high for them to keep raising? Maybe that’s as high as the bar goes for some. Hmm.
Nothing’s really grabbed me on those releases as all of Peter Wolf’s Midnight Souvenirs has. Most young songwriters have nothing to say yet for the most part. The carrots are still chasing the rabbits syndrome for a dollar instead of a handshake, possibly? After a little studying about the production credits I found out superstar session player, Larry Campbell, is all over Wolf’s release as well as Greg Leisz. He, the former, who has toured with Dylan on the Never Ending Tour and contributed to Bob’s 2000s recordings in between helping other songwriting greats like Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris. The latter having starred on many of my favorite artists records by The Jayhawks, Matthew Sweet, Beck, Whiskeytown, the list is massive. The most important one (for me personally and musically) is with the late great, Jay Bennett, on one of my favorite modern day recordings of all time, Wilco’s only true solid, honest, masterpiece, Being There.
A.D.D. Sidenote #1: Every day I have to decide, Wilco’s Being There or Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea? A bagel or bacon? Both? Which one will I die for first?
Back to Souvenirs, throw in Neko Case who duets with Mr. Wolf on a song, The Green Fields of Summer. I, along with many other indie as*hole snobs, should loathe this song. It’s sickly, slick and as usually, Neko creeps in to take a well needed nap on top of a blanket of brain cells that normally explode with agitation after hearing love songs like this one. ‘Souvenirs’ was also recorded at Sear Sound in NY city, a great, old school, recording studio. These facts alone may prove why this record kept calling me back to listen further, more and deeper.
Aging unlike his peers, Peter Wolf’s, I Don’t Wanna Know off of Midnight Souvenirs should be a pop hit for the Stones circa now or in 1980. It could have been a hit for Paul Westerberg in the 90s but I’m sure Paul woulda found a way to make sure it wouldn’t be. He also wrote many songs Ryan Adams should cover once he gets his 80s metal fetish outta his A.D.D. system.
A.D.D. Sidenote #2: Getting back to Mr. Westerberg. This record could be a blueprint for Paul Westerberg if he needs a hand charting out life after 60 and remaining ‘whatever’ if decides to craft a cohesive ‘marketable’ solo record. Hire Larry Campbell and toss in duets with Neko & Merle Haggard. I doubt he’d consider that a compliment aside from the duets tip but I don’t care, I welcome whatever Westerberg does with open ears. He could snore for 40 minutes and release it as a record, I’d call it a masterpiece regardless.
A.D.D. Sidenote #3: Let’s get to a general racial point of view now, white people songwriters should take note of Wolf’s record. As well as normal white people with horrible taste and skills regarding music listening. Take note of this record. Most of you will still suck for the most part— try and listen, I’m just sayin. Chances are you’ll fail if you’re normal and white. Blame MTV, blame degenerative parents who forgot to wear their rubbers, blame the Flag but do not, under any circumstances, blame the J. Geils Band or Peter Wolf.
So many bands, so many bad raps but not the J. Geils Band. The worst thing about the band was that they weren’t called, The Peter Wolf Band. Seriously. Rock n Roll has provided the cover for many white guys trying to act out the blues in one way or another. The Stones have made a career outta the blues, and in turn, they (along with many British acts) opened up the doors for established American blues artists to go git a lil success of their own. (Chess Records, start there, go backwards.)
Peter Wolf’s the man. The guy is 64 years old as of this past March 7th, 2010. The road he’s traveled as a visual artist in his youth first, a lead vocalist/performer secondly, a solo artist lastly just kinda stumbled into one, fine, beautiful, train-wreck of a credible and artistic career. What sets Wolf apart from many songwriter-artists who have hit their mid 60s is that he still sounds as vital as he did struttin to the J. Geils Band in the 70s. Eventually they delivered some of the finest pop songs the early 80s any pop star fronted band can put claim to before going solo. Freeze Frame, Centerfold, Angel In Blue. That’s just the 80s. Had the band been called The Peter Wolf Band they’d be bigger than the E Street Band, hands down. Check out 1976’s, Blow Your Face Out. Live, yeah. No one titles there records, Blow Your Face Out anymore.
These kids today, in bands, songwriters, don’t bring it the way Peter Wolf still brings it at age 64. This guy had a pretty incredible young creative history before he was even asked to be in the J. Geils band in . This guy roomed with David Lynch in college, studied under Norman Rockefellar for Christ’s sake and his first band, The Hallucinations, opened for Velvet Underground, Howlin Wolf, Sun Ra and many others. So if you’re gonna laugh, laugh at this writer, not the subject matter. Peter Wolf is a bad ass mother f*cker.
Midnight Souvenirs is Wolf’s first record in 8 years, his 7th overall since leaving the J. Geils Band in 1983-84. The guy has settled smoothly into a country soul stew- as many singer songwriters tend to do as they age but not as well as this. The missing ingredients in most cases are wit an attitude. These ingredients helps songwriters hittin their mid 60s strides sound viable to younger generations. Normally, no one wants to hear about life’s regrets, lost loves or just boring songs written for their children that they were too drunk to write 30 years ago when the little brats were born as they were out on the road partying.
Wolf is something different though, something more. There’s no songs here written for his children- that I could decipher. His vocal hasn’t aged a bit, he still sounds 28 with a mouthful of wit, sugar and vinegar. It helps that he has help from writer, Will Jennings, who has managed to lay low on a few very important anti-indie facts regarding his own American songwriting career.
A.D.D. Sidenote #4: Jennings has co-written many, many, many bad pop songs that went on to win many, many, many pointless awards because people (mostly white I will assume) with poor taste couldn’t get enough. White people LOVE movie soundtrack hits and Jennings specialized in writing crappy hits for white people who love depressing movies. Tears in Heaven from Rush, Up where we belong from an Officer and a Gentleman, and the cherry on the white person with bad music tastes cake— that song Celine Dion sings in Titanic— that one- who knows what the name of it is.
I’ll also point out Jennings wrote tunes for the god of nothing to many, Jimmy Buffet. It’s easy to assume Will Jennings may have written some tunes that your best friend’s wife got so tanked over dancing to with thousands of other alcoholics at a Parrot Head show. Let’s assume that she hit on you but screwed the guy next to you and ended up with another mis-raised baby to worry about while your best friend tries to figure out if the kid is even his for the rest of his life. So, it’s easy to assume based on those facts there’s something sneaky goin on with Will Jennings working with Peter Wolf. There isn’t. Will Jennings is a great writer who wrote bad songs for millions of people to buy so that he could hang out and enjoy life with some of his best friends. One being Peter Wolf.
F*ck this, I’m tired, too tired for checkin typos too. People are gonna love or hate this record. Midnight Souvenirs is normal, sweet, filled with great hooks and witty lines— some of it’s slop but he’s 64 and delivers some sexy ass lines. He still has more to say than most his peers out there callin the marketing shots with their boring brand of classic rock. Withholding names right now. This is a collection of beautifully crafted country soul pop songs delivered with some rat-a-tat-tat Wolf Attitude. Pull up a stool, open a crappy can of beer, wait for one of your as*hole indie friends to ask, Who is this? This is great. Then tell them what you know now.
I fear the snobs are still not sold. For you indie kids, imagine Lambchop making a real tight as all hell classy country soul pop record the best they could and hiring Peter Wolf to replace head honcho, Kurt Wagner, for a set of songs on one record. Throw in recording it at Sear Sound in NYC, the wild card session playa here. Something about that studio that makes simple songs, as simple as many of these are, come to life. I love this record and through it’s release, established a new found respect for Peter Wolf’s rich, historical, career as a a strange storied artist that most young songwriters, artists, writers, vocalists, should invest a little time in or at least have a drink to. Cheers, here’s to aging gracefully, Mr. Wolf, this is some pretty sneaky stuff you got goin on.
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