Arguably, Detroit has received the brunt of the commentary about how the working class part of the country was negatively affected when the economy got a swirlie back in 2009. Political corruption. Abandoned houses that no longer stunk of the elegance with which they once stood but rather of black mold. General sociologic unrest. All are topics that we have witnessed in the form of news stories, multiple times, in the last five or six years. However, in the case of five-member Detroit rock band Wilson, it is tempting to use a gauche (and quite possibly irreverent) cliché about how from the deepest despair comes the greatest art, how roses thrive in excrement.
Wilson represents a different side of Detroit, the real face of the city. When they bombastically bounded into the scene with their first album in 2013, Full Blast Fuckery, they weren’t messing around. The party continues, with a more refined sound, on their second album, titled Right to Rise, which the group released last June through Razor & Tie.
The band released a video for the title track, “Right to Rise”, which features the group playing in a dilapidated building, interspersed with shots of Detroiters working and living in their dear city, and a growing pack of dogs making the rounds. The polished sound of the band is like the rays of sunlight penetrating the boarded up windows of their makeshift venue. This is a group that embraces where they came from for all that it is, warts and all. “We’ve got the right to rise / From ashes we survive” growls Chad Nicefield, with the steadfast purpose and determination Detroit is – or ought to be – known for. On the next track, titled “Guilty (You’re Already Dead),” Chad demonstrates some impressive vocal talent as deliciously restrained drums and blisteringly melodic guitar fill the background to overflowing. “Crave” begins with some meaty guitar and is paralleled by drums packed with just as much protein. Not quinoa, but beans, maybe. As Chad sings “I crave you, I crave you / I’ve got a hunger that won’t go away” I wonder what it is he’s craving. He has the sound of a polished rocker, able to get his callused hands on whatever he wants. Perhaps the thing he craves is that thing that keeps the band pushing beyond their musical experience to create something new and feisty.
Wilson Right to Rise on You Tube
“Windows Down!” is ushered in with the changing of radio stations. Finally, the radio comes to rest at WLSN (heh) for a down-home hard rocking paean to the group’s origins in Motor City and their constant striving for more. “I remember where I came from / All the faces and the people that I learned from… I wanna hear the world scream my name!” This is a band with ambition, talent, and a love for Detroit rivaled by no economic catastrophe. In “All My Friends” Chad’s vocal scaffolding is embellished with hard driving guitar and full percussion. According to an interview with Huffington Post, Wilson was started as a live band so the guys could get free beer, and their notoriety as performers grew exponentially while they honed their craft. Just to see drummer Matt Puhy live and up close would be worth the bruises I would surely receive in my attempts to get to the front. “Satisfy Me” is about going for it, balls to the wall. It is almost as if they are singing to the gods of music itself, as they dare their listener to satisfy their insatiable selves. “Give it to me more and more nothing satisfies me / I’ve been knocking on heaven’s door but that ain’t high enough for me… I want it want it want it want it all,” sings Chad, pushing the song forward with Wilson’s signature ambition.
Starting with fat raindrops of drum and misty vocals, “The Flood” progresses into a hurricane of melody that got me dancing before the chorus. “You can lead me to water but you can’t save me” gives the listener a blistering reminder that just as we are the masters of our fate, it is up to us to make it Good. With religious undertones Wilson demonstrates that not only are they kickass party animal rockers, they are ethical kickass party animal rockers – EKPARs, if you will.
“Hang With the Devil” pulls us back into the rager, fast and hard, like I imagine my life would be like at two in the morning if I had a motorcycle. “The more you give it, the more I take it,” growls Chad with increasing severity. I suspect he’s really good at poker. (I learned to play poker from a crack-loving veteran. After ten minutes I could beat him every time, but I never won against any other opponent.) Post-devil, and with a quietly hard-rocking seething symphony of sound, “I Am the Fly” takes the listener deeper into the microcosm of Wilson’s world. “I am the fly on your wall” ominously warns the listener to be careful of what they do. There is always someone watching. In a tonally and logically perfect transition from “I Am the Fly,” “Give ‘Em Hell” encourages the listener, in true Wilson style, to just do that thing you want to do, and do it as well as you possibly can. The boys provide an example of said giving ‘em hell in an instrumental that takes a guitar from yelling to crying to maniacal laughter. If Dwight Schrute were real, this is the song he would listen to in his Trans Am before making the biggest sale of his career.
“Waiting for the World to Cave In” is a beautifully-composed song with some primo guitar and a melody that makes your auditory cortex drool… Or is that blood? Careful in those mosh pits, kids. With some lines sung with a delightfully guttural quality over a faint acoustic tune, “Before I Burn” lulled me into a craving for biscuits and gravy, then blasted ahead with the impact of that moment you add the water to your fat back grease. The song rocks harder than anything ever pulled out of the gaping earth by Detroit Salt Company, with a dreamy interlude featuring complex rhythms and floating melody. As suddenly as the song got swinging at the beginning, it gradually pulls you back into the depths of Wilson’s delectably hard rock like cinderblocks tied to your ankles.
Currently touring across the Atlantic, Wilson will be playing on Day Two of 2016 Carolina Rebellion. Don’t forget to check out their new album. Show some love for Detroit by adding Wilson to your music library today!