Will Hoge: The Wreckage

After being nearly killed on his scooter, Will Hoge returns with The Wreckage, a song cycle about the mess that lovers tend to get themselves into.

Will Hoge

The Wreckage

US Release: 2009-09-29
UK Release: 2010-01-25
Label: Rykodisc

The title of Will Hoge’s latest record, The Wreckage, may refer to the mess that lovers tend to get themselves into, but it’s also a nod to Hoge’s literally broken body and subsequent convalescence after someone in a van ran over him while Hoge was riding his scooter. The Wreckage is his first album after the accident, and the title song is the album’s slow-burning ballad that asks questions that hit where it hurts: “Why do I keep holding on to what I know is wrong? Everything keeps moving on/Everything but me and you”. Hoge is obviously a guy who can take a punch, and he brings that toughness in unflinching lyrics, delivered with impassioned vocals and sinewy roots rock.

It’s no surprise that Hoge bounced back with a solid new set of songs; he has been, after all, one of the most perseverant singer-songwriters on the folk-rock circuit, touring hard now for better than 15 years and putting out a pile of releases, including seven full-lengths of original material and several independently released live recordings. The Wreckage, despite the near-death turn of events that inform it, is no major departure from his other albums, all of them driving Southern-soulful alt-country records worth owning. That’s no bad thing, as Hoge delivers another no-bullshit collection of scrappy, rootsified tunes.

The record starts with a couple of terrific rockers, the thumping “Hard to Love”, about the disconnect between needing someone and the urge to bail out “in this damn world of lies”, and he backs up such a sentiment with a procession of emotionally raw songs. “Long Gone” is a Tom Petty-style burner that follows the record’s chief theme, that love is a twisted blessing because it lies just outside our reach: “One day you’ll see how good it could be/if you’re not already long gone”. These songs hit hard with a crackle that sounds like a product of Hoge’s years touring with Dan Baird, singer/guitarist for ‘80s hick-rockers the Georgia Satellites, as these four-on-the-floor songs are dedicated to jagged guitars, pounding drums, hard singing, and little else.

If anything, Hoge is singing more urgently than before, sometimes as though his life depends on it, or at least with awareness that one’s chances are limited. Throughout the record, he moves from weary mumbles to grizzled yelps, saving his most expressive, soulful singing for the album-closing “Too Late Too Soon”, on which his voice sounds weathered, but he pushes through to reach those high notes anyway. Think the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson. Or Paul Stanley, if he had grown up in Tennessee rather than Queens.

At times, Hoge wears his influences a tad too conspicuously as his lyrics get so nakedly Springsteenian that a less passionate writer might be embarrassed. Take “Highway Wings”, for instance, a song that essentially paraphrases “Thunder Road”’s pullin’-outta-here-to-win idioms: “This town is broke down, baby/Full of dust from rusted dreams/I need to hear that blacktop sing/Underneath my highway wings”. But it’s hard to hold fault with a rock and roll true-believer like Hoge, who writes about falling in love with music on “Even It Breaks Your Heart”, one of the record’s best tracks. Even that love, however, is subject to the pain of loss and elusiveness—Hoge advises a young rock dreamer, himself as a child perhaps, to “keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart”. Sounds like the words of a true lifer.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.