Album Reviews - Reviews

Scott and Charlene’s Wedding – Any Port In A Storm


Moving to a new city can be hard. The initial bewilderment at unfamiliar surroundings can quickly give way to crushing loneliness, self-doubt and yearning for days gone by. Working dead-end jobs to make the rent; becoming infatuated in seconds and watching it fade just as quickly; a never-ending supply of encouraging words from newfound friends in bars you’ll never see again. All familiar moments in a life that might be ‘just getting started’, but is constantly dogged by a desire to return to a time when such troubles simply didn’t exist.

Scott & Charlene’s Wedding’s second album, Any Port in a Storm, is an exploration of those ‘lonely new kid in town’ themes, couched in music ripped right out of the Great Seattle Songbook. Over the course of 11 tracks, Craig Dermody muses on old friends, new flings and why the hell anyone would want to live in New York. These tales of youthful ennui are backed by healthy dollops of feedback as well as some surprisingly frantic guitar solos in the background of almost every track; in fact, these little moments of chaos contain some of the best hooks on the record, and are well worth listening out for when they pop up. It’s just a shame that they’re buried so deeply in the mix; the fuzz-happy rhythm guitar is central stage throughout the whole album, which is no bad thing, but the demotion of the lead guitar to background noise for the most part makes some songs lose any concrete identity, making them sound almost identical to other songs on the album. It’s a pity, as these slivers of hectic melody really deserved more room to shine, and it almost certainly would have made some of the more throwaway tracks more memorable.

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Much has been made about S&CW’s adoption of the characteristic Nineties sound and the influence of Pavement and the Lemonheads is pretty easy to see on the album as a whole, particularly the early tracks (‘Junk Shop’ in particular sounds like an outtake from Slanted & Enchanted). However, once ‘1993’ comes on, all comparisons to grunge/alt rock classics melt away and the style sounds like a natural fit for Dermody’s lyrics. The ballads are among the standout tracks here; ‘Spring St.’ in particular is an instant highlight, as Dermody tries and fails to forget about the one person he gave his heart to in the city he hates – and boy does he hate New York City. Descriptions of the town’s propensity to crush anyone who goes in unprepared crop up frequently across the 11 tracks; the eponymous ‘Jackie Boy’ warns our lovable protagonist (presumably Dermody himself) that if living in NYC doesn’t make him tough, “it’ll make you done”. Meanwhile, ‘Clock Out & Leave’ has Craig in full-bore diary mode (“I don’t need extra loneliness in my life”). These little throwaway confessions are often mixed with proclamations of the power of Rock n’ Roll to save a mortal soul, or at least to cushion the blow (again, ‘Spring St.’ shines in this regard) of hard living in the city. Sure, it’s somewhat corny, but it’s a nice touch and leaves the impression that maybe it’s not all doom and gloom in NYC after all.

Any Port in a Storm is a record destined to be stuck on rotation in the MP3 players of lost souls in new cities. For everyone else, it’s a nice little exercise in nostalgia with the odd lyrical gem shining through. If nothing else, it shows that we can expect great things from S&CW in the future. 1994 can’t come soon enough. Mark  Jones

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