Pitchfork (Website) - "The palm-muted guitars and roaring refrains of his old work remain, but the record is more reserved and instilled with zany, fanciful flourishes."
Personnel: Alexander Turnquist (guitar, E-bow); Eric Goulden (guitar, organ, bass guitar); Amy Rigby (banjo, piano); Jane Scarpantoni (cello); Brian Dewan (Wurlitzer organ, keyboards); Jeremy Grites (drums).
Recording information: Catskill, NY.
Wreckless Eric is the sort of artist who is commonly described as quintessentially British, even though he's been bouncing about Europe and the United States for a few decades; both his voice and his lyrical outlook are echoes of pubs and bedsits, even after he settled down in France. After relocating to Hudson, New York, Eric decided to make a concept album about the United States as seen through his eyes, and it's fitting that 2015's America (or, as it's spelled on the cover, amERICa) sounds like nothing so much as a Wreckless Eric record, built from the wobbly notes of a slightly eccentric outsider who is at once fascinated and bemused by the big country in which he's landed. Eric rarely painted a rosy portrait of British life, so it's only fair he doesn't seem to feel much different about his new home in the States; he marvels at the fact every diner seems to have the same food, he bristles at getting stuck in a small town where nothing seems to happen, he ponders the curious notion that he's even more obscure in America than he was in the U.K., and he can't quite suss out the rote cheeriness of the strangers he meets. Wreckless Eric has always seems like an outsider at heart wherever he lands, and America gives him a bigger canvas than ever in which to feel out of place, and while Eric's vague grumpiness is showing here, he also offers clues that there are things in America he likes, at least when it comes to music and the unfortunate career trajectories of U.S. boy bands. And while Eric has been making his records at home using rescued gear for some time now, America shows he's getting better at it. While he's inexplicably fond of a synthesized choral effect, for the most part this album sounds clear but homebrewed at the same time, with charm making less of a sacrifice on fidelity. America is a reminder that life in these United States isn't going to change one of the great eccentrics of British rock, and he might even walk away a better and more perceptive songwriter if this music is any indicator. ~ Mark Deming
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