There I was in the back screenporch, looking out onto the lake, watching fireflies and hearing the crickets and bullfrogs. Three hours north of the street I live and it seems like a million miles away...and it's no other place that I's rather be. Ya gotta love those trips outta town. Change of scenery, fresh air and though the strip mall-i-fication and Walmartisms are starting to slowly creep in around the bigger vacation spots-it's still for the most part a ya can't please everyone so ya gotta please yourself/whether you have mud on your boots or gold in your teeth we call get judge fairly and equally in the end attitude up there.
After recording their first album with Greg Cartwright and gaining accolades from the editor of CMJ ("Record of the Year" and all that) Goodnight Loving could've sought out another "name" producer, jumped ship to a more well known label and pander to the types that think bands like the Old 97's embody some spirit of "real music" (when in reality there not much more than a Replacements tribute band really but "Ooohhh. Did you hear that southern rock opera they did?" Yeah. I did. The Supersuckers were really into Skynyrd but they were even smart enough not to make a whole fucking album about the plane crash) and run the risk of losing some of the mojo that made their first album stand out and shine like the chrome in the summer sun. Instead they holed themselves up in a cabin in Crooked Lake, Wisconsin (hence the albums name-though there has been some question on WHICH Crooked Lake this was recorded at-there's a few inland lakes in the state that bear the name) with a coffee maker, a satchel of green and recording extraordinaire Justin Perkins.
Rustic, hazy, hyper, a bit frayed and nicotine stained around the cuffs of their jackets and a breath of fresh air like those trips out of the stupid city into the green grass, tall trees and lake blue expanse, the band not only made an album that matches their first but, to these ears, expands on the template and surpasses it. The twangier stuff, such as the First National Band meets a noisy basement show feeling of "Another Foggy Yesterday", the obviously boozy barndance and the latenight cornfield bonfire heartbreak vibe replete with banjo (Hey guys, I know you've heard it a bunch of times but ya should consider bringing in the pedal steel here and there again. I mean the song works just fine without it and everything but it would be cool to hear it make an appearance every once in awhile again) of the weeper "Purple Death (Theft)" are a bit more twangy than it's ilk from the first album but still never sounds like they're thinking "We're a Y'allternative band". They've been subjected to my Ralph Emory rant (the one where I blame him facilitating everything from Owen Bradley's countrypolitanisation of real music to Garth Brooks being no more sincere than KISS) and we're not only interested in hearing it but had some of their own points to add as well. They don't spend weeks making the harmonies blend perfectly-they'd rather have them find their own spaces which makes them fit just right. They don't spend time worry about a "mistake" here and there in the playing because the songs heart's aren't artificial. Goodnight Loving are an AMERICAN ROCK-n-ROLL band and I don't mean some kind of that New Traditionalist tag either cuz it's highly unlikely GnL is ever gonna resort to the "I'm proud to be born in the USA" waving and smiling as "our leaders" wipe their ass with the constitution. The post 9-11 ambiguous dark humor of "Join the Order" who's point is complemented with a home made strawberry jam marching beat rhythm and it's counterpart "21st Century Post Apocalytic Blues" which ALSO has it's own counterpart with "Latter 20th Century" don't beat ya over the head with any long winded political lectures but make their subtle hints and jabs.
The "rockin'" songs (as in the upbeat songs cuz all the songs on the album "rock" as well as "roll" in their own particular way) like "Land Of A 1000 Bars", a bleary eyed Westerbergian lament pumped with carnival organ, ringin' and ragged guitars and a chorus ya can't help singing along to plopped in the middle of a rodeo fish fry that drops a sideways 'House Of The Rising Sun' nod, "Train Hopping Man" a rowdy barroom shouter which had seen many plays around these digs in it's original incarnation off a Juke Boyds CD-R some years back sports one of the best Keith and Woody minded middle parts I've heard in quite awhile, the 50's teen tragedy meets anytime teenage boredom "You Better Know" and "Money To Plaster" which has has everyone I played it to making a a bunch of different musical reference points but no two people's takes being the same but all declaring that it has instant hooks all feel good and make one think everything can be right in the world like a favorite pair on jeans. So it ain't just me. Hell, even Rachel of the Detroit Cobras mentioned in passing that she liked this album and she never likes anything. I know that statement probably could probably be used against the band by some of the more uptight factions of the garage-rock Reich but more people are listening to records she's on than such grumps probably ever will.
With everyone in the band writing songs bringing different colors and brushes to the sound there's seems to be no stopping these Wisconsin guys. It's probably too soon to go around declaring this a classic LP but their first album was one of the best things to come out last year and, as I mentioned earlier in this spiel ,this tops it.