The first thing I noticed about this group was their instant likeability. People were coming to me at clubs and saying, “Who are these guys? I really like what they’re doing.” And the reason that’s happening is because the band really has a genuine, fresh sound. They also have the ability to squeeze honest emotion out of their performance, demonstrating that nothing phony is going on, and the audience picks up on that fast. I have to admit when I first heard the band name I thought they were some sort of pot smoking Harry Potter ensemble that came from under a bridge full of demons and mushrooms, however, once I got past the moniker and in front of the group I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw and heard.
Wild Rompit is a New Jersey foursome that has just released their debut disk titled Stampede. Lead singer Blair Ollendorf’s voice is undeniably unique and can best be described as gritty, sand papered, crushed broken glass rasp, rubbed with Tom Waits and Ezra Koenig soul. To call this guy a yowler is sort of understatement (Like saying that Samuel Jackson talks kind of loud) and his simple, short burst delivery compliments the simple two guitars, bass and drums line up perfectly. Wild Rompit has a very upstate New York or California vibe, bringing forth earthy visions of The Band, the starkness of Tom Waits and the melodic mystery of Band Of Horses.
Their 6-song EP is actually almost an album’s worth once you add up the song times. The longest logs in at over seven minutes and while that might seem a bit much, it doesn’t leave you wandering away to check your Facebook updates. It’s a riveting project and I’m always happiest when a band uses their God-given hands and minds instead of stepping on pedals or leaning on crutches such as that horrible auto-tuner shit. There is none of that on Stampede.
Simple production on Stampede makes for the wide-open feel throughout the disc. Each song is different. Standout tunes include disc opener, “Fall,” a droning, fast-paced arabesque journey that introduces the listener to Ollendorfs scratchy vocal and the band’s amicable abilities.
“Sister” continues the vibe of Band Of Horses with its ominous melody and Ollendorfs spotlight rasp. Minimalist instrumentation and wide-open dynamics shine on this.
The disc’s self-titled number features herky-jerky rhythm and blues meets straight ahead dirty white boy Black Oak Arkansas rock. Greasy slide work seesaws in and out of thick bass and up stroked conundrums, making way for simple, single stringed Mick Ronson guitar lines. How Ollendorf manages to sing as he does for more than a few seconds is an amazing mystery to me. Even Bon Scott couldn’t hold a candle to this guy.
If there were anything close to a single on this disc it would have to be “Most Likely,” a rambling half-time Smokey Mountain tumbler that’s brings forth recollections of The Felice Brothers. Starting out with pianos and acoustic guitars, Blair and the boys ramp it up into the classy chorus with building block style. Simple and lonesome backing vocals are quite complimentary to Blair’s plaintive front wail and the chorus is addictive. Once the band kicks in things move along Americana style. At 6:17 this song would benefit most from a more repetitive use of the great chorus, but that’s a minor gripe. The addition of harmonica in the end tag literally pushes this song into another dimension.
“Fighting” reminds me of what Kurt Cobain might be doing today if he didn’t blow his brains out. Blair takes his time on “Fighting,” setting up the song with step-by-step layers of acoustic guitars and piano melodies, his bare and guttural vocal cutting straight to the emotive core. You don’t even here drums until around 2:10 into the song. Pianos push diminished guitar minors and vocals growling with darkened purpose. Sparse percussion takes you into the next simple breakdown before disappearing yet again until about 3:35 into the tune. It’s a rare instance of the drums actually being used as an effect instead of pounding throughout the whole song and it works.
“Foolish” sees some guitar breakout ala Neil Young or The James Gang. The intro riff is a cool opening hook that leads smoothly into Ollendorf’s Mick Jagger swagger. The sing along chorus is catchy and 1960s innocent. The almost two-minute guitar solo outro might be a bit much for non-enthusiasts but the hell with ‘em, I liked it fine.
If you are a music lover that demands no-nonsense rock and roll that delivers message and mystery time after time, then Wild Rompit is worth a listen. My suggestion would be to go see this non-pretentious band and pick up the disc thru the usual outlets. Wild Rompit is: Blair Ollendorf, Brandon Bost, Paul Impellizeri and Sean Huber. For further information on upcoming shows and disc purchasing head over to www.myspace.com/wildrompit.
Patrick Slevin-Editor Extraordinaire And All Around Good Egg
Just wanted to take a minute to say ‘vaya condios’ to former editor-in-chief Pat Slevin. Many readers including myself loved his pull no punches writing style, covering everything from politics to current musical trends with the unequivocal intelligence and leniency of a Vulcan. Slevin had manned the editorial desk for the last few years and did a great job during his time with us. I’ll miss his “tip of the week” or our emails on the scene and gear talk of guitars, amps and effects. He taught me a few things about writing and woke me up when I got lazy, and for that I thank the man. He has contributed into making me the tough, no-nonsense son of a bitch I am today.
As far as where he’s going next, that is truly a mystery. Some say the DOD while others point towards the CIA, but only he knows for sure. As Rick James would say, “Private sector is a hell of a drug.” The one thing I can tell you is he will never be truly gone from our presence as he plans to shoot in and out in some form of editorial guest writer, keeping you on your toes and in the political and musical game here at the Aquarian.
First let me say that I’ve always hated change, I mean I still have the same car going on twelve years but the positive side of this change is that J.J. Koczan is returning to run the editor sector and I’ve always had a good rapport with him. So, I guess all I gotta do is turn in the stuff on time and stay off the radar and BAM! I’m on easy street. Sounds good right? I know you’re jealous and I can’t blame you. Anyhow, it’s probably the first job in my life where I don’t hate my superiors going out or coming in, and that’s like money in the bank folks. So in conclusion I’d like to say good luck, Mr. Slevin, I’m sure you’ll excel wherever you end up. Don’t forget all us poor folk when you’re living it up on luxury row and welcome back J.J. we all look forward to an exciting year of musical adventures! Now, about that raise…