Ezekiel’s sighting of the fiery wheel is one of the Old Testament’s most psychedelic moments, a fantastic conglomeration of images centered around a wheel within a wheel. That’s the inspiration for this third album by Southeast Engine, a six-piece indie rock band headed by songwriter Adam Remnant. The album is shot through with religious imagery, but like the wheel, impossible to read in any literal way. It’s sort of mystic contemplation of life-long love, spiritual struggle, midlife confusion and renewal—with really fast, loud punk-rock drums and stabs of indie-rock guitars.
The piano is a pivotal character in this band’s sound, twinkling in splatter painted patterns when the pace quickens, rollicking in barroom flourishes in the old-time-y cuts, and hazarding thoughtful, melancholy chords in the ballads. But it’s the lyrics, the philosophical yearning that make this album interesting. “Taking the Fall” which opens with the sound of a roulette wheel, sweetly evokes lifelong love, a girl first seen clutching her mother’s coat, a boy off playing in the rain. There are spiritual issues at stake in “Ostrich” and the two-part “Pursuit of Happiness”, a consideration of control versus ceding one’s life to god. The best cut, “Quit While You’re Ahead”, hints at the life crisis that might have prompted all these deep thoughts. It rampages headlong over minor key melodies, full of restless, anxious energy.
But it’s in “Ezekiel Saw the Wheel” that Remnant ties the threads together, god, life-partners, children and struggle linked together in a single organism, in a verse that goes, “The son sells the world/ And the world buys the need/ To create new life/ In the form of a seed/ Where the seed sells its roots for the sake of its vines/ That grow up to bear fruit that will transform into wine.” This is not the kind of Christian music you’ll hear at guitar masses, but it’ll get you thinking about all the big questions.