Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby at Safari Sam’s
I saw these guys play last night, and, okay, Eric needs to get that talentless woman off the stage. Not since David Bowie joined Tin Machine has a great musician intentionally allied themselves with such a lesser force (and at least the Sales brothers had a good resume, playing as they did with Iggy Pop).
It’s sad, because Eric is by no means washed up. On his own songs, he can still belt them out with an emotional timbre that gets me right here. And he’s got such a great catalog of songs, despite only putting out a couple albums worth of stuff in his heyday. His lyrics are either knowledgeably jaded or full of frail pining, mostly about love (my favorite of the moment is “Reconnez Cherie“), sung from the perspective of working-class characters that would fit comfortably into a Squeeze or Ray Davies song. Yet his vocal delivery is snottier than shit, like a cockney Barry McGuire. And the way he rocks in those Stiff Records singles is raw three chord rock, too punk for the pub-rock set, yet refreshing in the way it avoids first-wave U.K. punk’s utopian stupidity or numbing darkness.
That’s the kind of talent that can grow stronger with age. And if he wanted to come out and play a bunch of new original stuff, new songs by Eric Goulden sung by Eric Goulden, I would have embraced that. But why let some folkie gal sing her own material? And why accompany her on bass, like a dumbass?
If she was even a slightly good sidekick–say, a Skid Roper to his Mojo Nixon (weird example, but I’m stretching here)–then I wouldn’t mind the pair-up. Plenty of people feel invigorated by forming a songwriting partnership. But her songs bored the shit out of me. I mean, she had a social protest song about “raising the bar.” And a totally unfunny and un-rockin’ song about dating Joey Ramone. And a song about how many times Rasputin gets knocked down? That’s Indigo Girls shit (or Boney M)! Why would Wreckless Eric let her sing so many songs on his time?
Oh, that’s right, she’s fucking him.
To her credit, she had a decent voice. I got to the club super early, when they were still mopping and arranging the chairs, and it was quite a delight to see Eric and Amy soundcheck. They harmonized on “I Still Miss Someone” by Johnny Cash, and I loved the way her melodic vocals flittered around his rougher (though smoother than in the 70’s) sound. Then they ran through a couple of classic W.E. numbers, sounding great on just the acoustic guitars, or acoustic with elecric bass. And Eric was already fully “on”–he was making me giggle when he was talking to the sound guy about whether the monitors were picking up radio signals, and which countries around the world know how to project loud music into a crowd, and which ones can’t get it right (the U.S.).
I was so elated after hearing them play at soundcheck, it really killed my beer buzz to hear them later sound so terrible on each and every one of her songs. More’s the pity, because he put such a fantastic spin on his old numbers in those moments when her presence was minimized. Those who were there know, the lady’s gotta go.
Here’s Eric playing with a much better band, in happier times:
P.S. The Adored were playing at the top of their game! Really fine stuff.
P.P.S. Ari Shine was the most boring and bland example of by-the-books power pop that I’ve heard since the last International Pop Overthrow. Nice guys, but seriously, just stop it.