American Wrestlers – Goodbye Terrible Youth (Fat Possum)
There are many paths which may be followed by musicians before they finally arrive at their optimum creative zenith, yet Gary McClure has eschewed the well trodden path and instead, with machete in hand, hacked his own, unique trail. One suspects the production line of Scotland/Manchester/St Louis would not have been uppermost in the advice given by his careers advisor. It’s not as if he has an eye for a great band name either; his previous incarnation was in the shoegazey Working For A Nuclear Free City and American Wrestlers had me contemplating a band resplendent in lycra bashing out hairspray rock to the middle-aged US masses. However, McClure appreciates his own talent and has set about producing nine tracks of intimate introspection whilst being underwritten by a full band including his wife, Bridgette Imperial.
The change of scenery has already had a dramatic impact upon the writing of McClure. He may be a shoegazer at heart but having left the claustrophobic surrounds of Manchester, the distance has allowed him the opportunity to become reflective and contemplate his place in the world thus far. Judging by its title Goodbye Terrible Youth perhaps he won’t be booking a return flight home any day now. Maybe it’s the Missourian air or the swathes of American nothingness but McClure is definitely in the mood to allay his ghosts and look to the future.
‘Vote Thatcher’ ought to have me reaching for the off switch immediately but it’s the police in the crosshairs as he gripes “I can always look to my son/to be stoned by policemen” before lamenting on the topic of death; “I still can’t believe you died/I still can’t believe you died.” By no means is this a desolate opening to an album, the track positively hums along, precariously balancing upon a dizzying keyboard melody. For a song about death it’s positively chipper. This is the masterstroke pulled by American Wrestlers here; they are a sophisticated amalgam of intelligent word-smithery, sometimes political, put to the sound of a high class wedding band enjoying themselves. I mean that as a genuine compliment.
‘Terrible Youth’ ramps up the distortion as McClure snarls “now they’re done with you/goodbye terrible youth” you can’t help but wonder who ‘they’ actually are and what they did to vex him quite so badly. ‘Hello, Dear’ opens as if to mimic ‘Teenage Daydream’ but thankfully veers off into more unsettling territory as McClure implores us to “pray by numbers” in a disturbing holler which evokes memories of listening to The National during the Alligator years whilst laying in a darkened room. The lad isn’t finished with religion either; “where useless stands for suffering and shame /there’s no other way / where people sing amazing grace” he chastises his new neighbours in a stance against the Bible bashers during the anthemic ‘Amazing Grace’
Goodbye Terrible Youth is the sound of a man shedding his former skin and embracing his new environs with verve and confidence, he appears to have soaked up a fanny pack of Americana during his brief Stateside sojourn, you can sense his wonderment at being able to breathe musically pouring out of every track. Only on ‘Blind Kids’ do American Wrestlers confuse as they nab the keyboard riff from A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me‘ but if this is a portent for what McClure can produce after a couple of years in the US then someone needs to hide his passport. Right, I’m now off to listen to Goodbye Terrible Youth for the umpteenth time and to rid myself of Google images featuring men in tight leotards.
Goodbye Terrible Youth is released on 4th November on Fat Possum
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.