While it's not great, everyone involved seems to be having a good time, fully committed to their very specific, laid-back style.
Wiggle Room Drug Cabin’s second album, and second album of 2015, is a laid-back affair. There’s a 1970s folk-pop feel to their music, which is also cut with traces of psychedelia and splashes of country-style pedal steel guitar. Band leaders Nate Thelen and Marcus Congleton have both spent time in other bands, the former in Pretty Girls Make Graves and the latter in Ambulance LTD. While Drug Cabin certainly shares more traits with Ambulance than Pretty Girls, neither man’s previous band really set the stage for what they’re doing here.
Why put out two albums so quickly? Are Thelen and Congleton just that prolific? Have they been sitting on material since getting together around 2012? More likely the answer is that Drug Cabin’s songs are simple. Only two of the twelve tracks on Wiggle Room crest the three-minute mark, and even then just barely. There’s not a lot of heavy-duty composition going on here, just simple ideas and a couple of chords.
Opener “Handsome” encapsulates Drug Cabin’s style effectively. A gentle guitar strum and soft snare drum beat give way to quiet, harmonized vocals. The song expands to include droning pedal steel notes and easygoing clean electric guitar chords without ever developing any sense of urgency or forward momentum. Second song “Wiggle Room” is just as relaxed, although it boasts a pair of interesting baritone guitar lines that give the song a bit of distinction. But still, the overall vibe remains the same. It’s at this point that the name Drug Cabin clicks. Images of a couple of guys high on pot in an isolated shack in the forest working out mellow grooves on their guitars flit through your head, and the rest of the album flows right into this picture.
It’s not all like this, at least not quite. “Legends” is relatively energetic, at least in its guitar, bass, and drums, with some nicely catchy guitar work. But the vocals are so subdued that it muffles the song’s vibe a bit. “Stoner” features a genuinely funky bassline, and the rest of the song spins off of that groove, with syncopated rhythm guitar and swirling psychedelic lead guitar. Even “Steely Dad” manages to nail the influence of its title with a proto-disco jazz-lite feel. It doesn’t make for a great song, but it at least works as its intended pastiche.
Even the record’s upbeat songs like “Ruby” still have the same mellow groove. Despite its sprightly melody and driving (but still very lightly-played) drumbeat, the country-rock vibe feels natural for the band. The fact that the song is less than two minutes long gives the impression, true or not, that the band didn’t want to spend very much time on the songs with a slightly higher energy level. The similarly upbeat “Emily” does the same thing, getting in and out in under two minutes.
There’s enough variety to Wiggle Room that it doesn’t feel like the same song twelve times in a row. But it definitely has the whole easygoing vibe down pat. A song like “Easy” is so simple, with its reggae-style guitar line and drums that echo that pattern, that one could easily see it coming from a late-night, smoke-filled jam session where every slightly inebriated member of the band bought into the song as a great idea when really there isn’t much to it. But Wiggle Room is never less than pleasant. Everyone involved seems to be having a good time and the songs from Thelen and Congleton are fully committed to their very specific, laid-back style.