Black Heart (ep)
Wellington’s Anxiety Club has built a following, a reputation across the last couple of years – meaning there was actual anticipation for this, their debut EP. And it’s a wise move too, an EP, just five tracks, a toe in the water, so to speak.
There’s some lovely shades and textures here, horns on loan from Eb & Sparrow, the production and engineering skills of James Goldsmith (Nadia Reid, Beastwars, Mermaidens) and the strong vocal presence of Kev Fitzsimons who achieves something very rare here, in that he evokes tones of Bono without summoning nausea.
These are classy adult-pop songs, mature-minded but never high-brow. It’s accessible, and yet there’s some real skill in the playing, some actual thought in the arrangements. Standouts for me are the middle tracks, the EP’s title song and then Lonely Night. And where there’s a slight weep of Wilco in the opening to the song Black Heart (it’s actually more Richmond Fontaine) I’m reminded of things like The Wallflowers and Bruce Hornsby & The Range. (My apologies to any of the band members or fans if that all seems terribly – or terminally – uncool. I could give a fuck about coolness, I’m more interested in hallmarks of quality).
I Give In kicks off like latter-day Springsteen, another nod to the widescreen nature of the way these songs are framed – and for that we must thank the stately keys of Clint Meech (bringing to mind The Range, The E-Street Band and that general ‘colouring’ role of sitting under but being able to reach either side of the tune), also the just-right, rock-solid, never-overplayed drums of Chris Hill. Guitarist Cam ‘Dusty’ Burnell deftly adds not only lead guitar but banjo, mandolin and lap steel at various points, making him perfect to state a chugging rhythm (Holes In My Skin) or to provide gentle-country vibes (the closer here, Love Rescue Me).
It’s very much a case of EP-as-business-card, a well-honed (possibly even well-heeled) band saying “look, here’s what we can do”. Fortunately there’s something printed on both sides of this business card. So, plenty to take in. It all lines up, it’s all ticked off, but there’s just a bit more emotion and heart to all of this than I’m perhaps suggesting.
I really like these songs.