It’s difficult to know what to make of Daniel Romano‘s Outfit’s latest release, Okay Wow. The album was recorded live during a tour of Scandanavia and goes all over the sonic map. The music is densely packed with kickass rockabilly, Crazy Horse noise rawk (two lines of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” are even cited in the lyrics to one song), Dylanesque drawls, pounding punk riffs, Grateful Dead-style country rock, Frank Zappa craziness, and more. It’s as if someone put all the classic white male rock and roll of the 1970s in a blender, and this came oozing out. The songs may start differently than one another, but then typically build to some hard jamming before the track is completed as if the band can’t restrain themselves.
As such, the album carries a punch. The onstage energy cannot be denied. Even during the few times when the instruments quiet down, it’s like a fuse burning before a bomb goes off. Romano shouts as much as sings the lyrics, which can be heard but tough to decipher while being nudged by power chords, feedback, thumping bass lines, and powerful drumming. That is intentional. Romano calls the band “Outfit” as a way of acknowledging their singularity. They are all members of the same gang. This unanimity is exacerbated by the fact that two lead vocalists sing many of the tracks. The Outfit are Daniel Romano (vocals, guitar), David Nardi (guitar), Roddy Rosetti (electric bass), Ian Romano (drums), Juliana Riolino (vocals), and Tony “The Pope” Cicero (organ).
The live performances flatten out the differences in the tracks. One notices the odd lyrics, weird solos, and other eccentricities more than the general excellence of the singing and playing. Songs like “Modern Pressure”, “Sucking the Old World Dry”, “Empty Husk”, and “Nerveless” stand out more than others because of unique moments in the material even though the cuts themselves blend right into the mix. As these titles suggest, the songs share a sense of anxiety—or at least how someone deals with the disquietude of human relationships. Even the love songs are fretful, such as “Human Touch”, “Turtle Doves”, “Time Forgot (To Change My Heart)”, and the appropriately named “What’s to Become (Of the Meaning of Love).” That’s not to say the songs are not without hope. They often are, but they are also apprehensive.
This live document suggests Daniel Romano’s Outfit gives it all during a show. The crowd noises on the record show the audience’s appreciation. One cannot imagine anyone sitting down and listening. The music demands getting off one’s butt, although don’t misunderstand. This is not dance music. This is a sound that compels a different kind of physicality. One needs to stand, stomp, and shout.
Okay Wow is kind of a lame name for a record that evokes a much more vigorous response. It’s presumably ironic and fits the weird sense of humor that comes across as a way of dealing with the modern world. Based on the evidence of this album, Daniel Romano’s Outfit would be the perfect act for a club outside the industrial park on a Friday night when paychecks are cashed, hard drinks flow, and all one wants to do is get lost in the loud music. Damn.