For those who think Nashville’s music scene is all Brad Paisleys and Carrie Underwoods lighting up the Grand Ole Opry stage, to the east of Music Row is a whole community of indie artists that have garnered national attention. Whether of the Americana flavor like Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors or indie rock like Moon Taxi and the Weeks, many of these artists are growing their fan bases outside the city and creating a culture to rival some of the other established alternative rock cities. Wild Cub is one of the products of this culture, and their smash hit “Thunder Clatter” off their debut album Youth launched their career, landing them a record deal with Mom + Pop Records.
The richness of the island drums and jangling percussion accented by an earworm guitar riff caught the attention of carefree indie rock listeners and radio programmers the first time around. On Closer, Wild Cub emphasize those same ear candy qualities on a collection of emotional arena anthems but get caught following many of the clichés of modern indie rock.
Where Wild Cub’s first effort was more varied and atmospheric in its delivery of songs about heartache, loneliness, and love, Closer consists entirely, with the exception of one heartfelt slow burner, of upbeat anthems in the vein of Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance”. From the intro of opener “Magic”, it’s clear that Wild Cub are trying to recreate what fans loved from “Thunder Clatter” with pounding drums and chimey melodies and percussion. Singer Keegan DeWitt even references it in the first verse, “Now I wake up trying just to feel some part of that distant thunder now.” A little bit on the nose.
Aside from the thunder reference, much of the lyricism here uses the same metaphor and themes as their last album and beats them to death. DeWitt uses the worn symbols of driving, darkness, and light, fire throughout on songs dealing with much of the same subject matter (loneliness, waiting for someone, finding love) found on Youth and many, many other indie rock albums. And DeWitt’s strained delivery, especially in the higher range of his voice on songs like “Wait”, may be appropriate thematically, but is definitely not as strong as some of his contemporaries.
Despite the lyrical shortcomings and dispensable nature of some of the tracks, many of the colorful instrumentals warrant these tracks appearing on college rock party playlists. The horns and saxophone solo on “Somewhere” and the steel drums and Phil Collins tom fills on “Rain” especially cut through as memorably fun moments on an album that is, on the whole, enjoyable, if flawed. The clever irony of using danceable tracks to mask the loneliness of much of the lyrics is worth noting, even if it has been done before to better success. Ultimately, Wild Cub’s Closer is an amalgamation of Walk the Moon, Bleachers, the Killers, Coldplay, and Kings of Leon. It’s pleasant and worth throwing in the mix with those artists but adds very little to the indie rock sphere.
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