Wonder Wheel I: Possible sequel?

Paul A. Rosales
Wonder Wheel I
Care In The Community
Released: 8.3.10

Over the last couple years, (and this has been acknowledged on more than few occasions by me and everyone else with two ears and a blog), D.I.Y., albeit under the influence of modern methodology, has resurfaced with a vengeance. This is good: Truth be known, indie music has to some degree devolved to a castrated millennial take on prog rock, the excess of instrumentation and wallowing of whine less interesting next to the noted self-indulgence of arena-based prog and jam rock of the 70s. I got tired of indie rock and I don’t think I’m alone. How many Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk Hotel clones can you really listen to before it all sounds overwrought and dull?

And as creative heights are reached, the art form must fall time and time again. This will always be true, thankfully. Big band jazz went be-bop, hippie rock went metal, pop rock went punk rock and 00 indie rock has gone lo-fi. Granted the label “lo-fi” has taken on many permutations with neo-garage, neo-psychedelia, re-post-punk and whatever other crudely recorded form of music received a revival or makeover recently, but the so-called “bedroom movement” has been garnering a lot of notice, with Ariel Pink most especially, and R. Stevie Moore is enjoying accreditation as the home recording pioneer that’s inspired it all.

Moore is noted as a mentor to the young Paul A. Rosales, a member of this not-so illustrious guild of home recording artists that put out not-so refined albums. Wonder Wheel I is Rosales’ contribution to the genre and it does its progenitors proud with spacey loops, vocals drowned in reverb and haphazard percussion, anything to hide the album’s faults. Though that may not be a goal set by the production quality, or lack thereof, Rosales benefits from the album’s obscuring haze. Obviously you can hide a lot under distortion and the fact that he relies so heavily on echo effects to disguise his voice does more than merely hint that maybe he’s not that great vocally.

This should in no way dissuade you, though, from giving Wonder Wheel I some consideration. Rosales is like classic college radio: a presence not yet widely known but potentially important, especially in his own circles. With Wonder Wheel I, Rosales takes a fairly minimalist and airy approach to his material, his utilization of reverb there to thicken his efforts, but never to the point of betraying the reality of his acting alone. “Crimes,” for instance, is loose and a little sloppy in the percussion department. It becomes apparent throughout the album that Rosales is better in some areas than others, the album’s drum fills mostly uneven. However, the song’s keystrokes are interestingly ghost-like, the bass line punched up enough to almost make the drumming a mere distraction. He seems to fair better with synthetic drum sounds, the alt rock of “Bastard Of A Man” and industrial propulsion of “Clarity Dissolve” more reliable in construct. Even the warped limbo of “Swingset II” points to a clearer understanding of electronica than rock music, and that seems most evident in the Suicide-like “Freeway,” where his long, drawn out and bored vocal somehow melds perfectly with sped-up Casio sounds.

But, he’s also decent with broken indie rock riffs. “She Tells Me” works well and “Erroneous Love Song” maintains a degree of understated energy that evokes a familiar and welcome indie rock sound. “Purple” is probably the album’s most cohesive song, a dark and possibly ominous tone carried out like a better-than-average pop track. “Nautilus Cry” emotes with synth pop pulse, fuzz-tone strings generating static under the whistling and bouncy keys.

The album is experimental. I only bring this up because, in the way that some experimental albums maybe “dabble with” or “toy with” sounds foreign to an established musical personality, Rosales is figuring things out. Wonder Wheel I is not perfect, but it demonstrates enough potential to captivate and enough eclecticism to forgive most of his mistakes. He hasn’t found his niche, though, so, you can only assume at this point that he’ll improve once he works out his signature. As far as this “bedroom” genre is concerned, Before Today by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and WaavesKing of the Beach indicate that it’s going somewhere good, alive and exciting. The outlook for Rosales, therefore, looks the same.

Letters From A Tapehead


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