Former '70s punk-rock scallywag meets country-pop artist -- a match made in music heaven.
"Here comes my ship / I've waited so long for it", croons Wreckless Eric (Goulden) in celebratory fashion at the start of "Here Comes My Ship", the excellent psych-pop nugget which opens this debut album by the former '70s punk-rock scallywag and his onstage partner, musical collaborator, and -- most recently -- wife, country-pop artist Amy Rigby. That by the end of the opening song's two minutes and 51 seconds, everything has turned to shit as an "everlasting panic attack" takes hold is nothing new for either singer/songwriter. Barbed, tongue-in-cheek fatalism has lurked in both musicians' lyrics during their lengthy solo careers, whether it's Goulden's early Stiff outings like "Brain Thieves" and "Whole Wide World", or Rigby's mid-'90s acerbic kitchen-sink pop vignettes that made up her startling debut Diary of a Mod Housewife.
Back on Stiff Records for Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, a mere 28 years after unceremoniously stepping off the British label's non-stop new wave carousel of touring and recording, Goulden has returned from self-imposed underground exile (where he regularly released independent records with bands like the Captains of Industry and the Len Bright Combo, as well as solo projects, most recently 2004's Bungalow Hi) with a self-produced humdinger of an album.
Recorded, performed, and produced at the couple's home in southwestern France, Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby is a multi-layered masterclass in utilizing very little and turning it into a catchy DIY cacophony of pulsating '60s organ beats, sampled sounds, ravaged guitar psych-outs, and lysergic bubblegum pop. The newly-weds play all the instruments on the record, ranging from a cardboard box to a mellotron, and sound like they're having a ball in the process. Listen to the album's only cover, a spooky splang-and-slide-guitar-endowed fantasy-synth duet of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone", and you can hear that where this couple are concerned, there's nothing missing at all.
Goulden goes autobiographical on his two ballsy contributions, "The Downside of Being a Fuck-Up", a feral slice of fuzzy pub rock dripping with reverb, and "Another Drive-in Saturday", a thrumming guitar-based blend of youthful reminscence that pays homage to '70s rock 'n' roll bands like Mott the Hoople. Rigby, on the other hand, tends to less personal matters on her five offerings.
There's nothing here like the ribald story songs on Diary of a Mod Housewife, which tell of married bliss slipping into drunken fights on the couch ("Beer and Kisses") or a cheated woman's country-blues questionnaire for her wayward husband ("20 Questions"). What we do get, however, is a gloriously touching tribute to her former tour bus on "Astrovan", and a gently humorous cogitation about the dubious nature of male fashion sense on "Men in Sandals". Maybe she's just plain happy.
While not every song here reaches its full potential -- the Beach-Boys-inspired collaborative instrumental "Trotter" is an inventive misstep -- there are enough outstanding moments on Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby to warrant this record's high standing in either artist's oeuvre. And, by the way, live they're peerless.