The whiskey, women and sleepless nights remain on Wild American Runners, the follow up to the Best of 2012 release Simple Machines from Arliss Nancy. Gone are the guest vocalists of “The Crease” and “Front Seat,” relying on band harmonies (“Nathaniel”) and shared vocal duties shouldered by Cory Call and Kyle “GB” Oppold (“Nothing to Show” and “Bloodletter”).
Moving beyond the anthemic opener “Benjamin,” the road, lost love and age have begun to take a thematic toll. Drawing on their earlier work, Arliss Nancy mix the murky cowpunk sludge of Dances to Forget and Truckstop Roses with the spit polish of Simple Machines, providing for a looser sound highlighted by brighter guitars and Chris Love’s crisp keys.
How has this world grown so cold?
Where’s the faces and the friends that I used to know?
We can kick this fire till it’s just coals
Keep me safe, push me away, why don’t you let me go?
Songs from Wild American Runners have appeared in various forms over the last year. “Both Got Old” benefits from rougher edges than the version on the band’s split 7” with Those Crosstown Rivals. “Hold it Together,” with slightly altered lyrics and upbeat band arrangement, lacks the poignancy of Call’s hoarse-voiced acoustic version from the band’s 2013 Tour EP.
We both know I never was no good man
I always told you honey I was cursed
I should have learned to put that fucking guitar down
Buy a wedding ring we both know you deserve
The beauty lost on the album version of “Hold it Together” is found through the pain of album closer “Vonnegut” with its slow musical build and wallowing misery that lingers long after the album ends.
With a nod and a wink, there’s a subtle homage on every Arliss Nancy album to a classic song. As on “40s” from Simple Machines, Manfred Mann’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light” surfaces in the form of a guitar solo on “Nathaniel.” The chorus melody from Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” finds its way onto “Hold it Together” to perfect effect. While brief and possibly inadvertent, such moments demonstrate how Arliss Nancy are not afraid to show and use their influences to create their own distinct version of rock and roll.
If Simple Machines represented Arliss Nancy finding its voice, Wild American Runners is the culmination of the band’s sound to date. Still growing as a band, Arliss Nancy has managed to deliver back-to-back classics.