Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Gloriana – Wild At Heart

Cheyenne Kimball’s second shot at the Jukebox works a hell of a lot better than her first


Martin Kavka: I must be a sucker for Cheyenne Kimball’s mandolin-playing. “Wild At Heart” is musically formulaic; for example, the chorus after the bridge has handclaps and minimal instrumentation. The lyrics, to the extent they’re not just empty images, are pro-abstinence — keep your wildness in your heart/pants, boys and girls! Even worse, it’s produced by Matt Serletic, who is responsible for all the worst songs of the 1990s, including Collective Soul’s “The World I Know,” Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be,” and Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.” But the jauntiness of mandolin keeps it from being too terribly stifling. She could unfurl a “Mission Accomplished” banner and I’d clap fervently.

Anthony Miccio: Take away the banal twang and this sounds a lot like one of Prince’s strummy spirituals (“7,” “Mountains”). Sadly, there’s no way to take away the banal twang.

Anthony Easton: This is really a deserted summer for interesting country singles, or even shit that is fun enough to drink in the back yard to.

Michaelangelo Matos: Now we know what all those mid-’70s harmonizers would have sounded like with digital vocal touching-up: like Cream of Wheat with all the texture removed.

Ian Mathers: It’s a shame Gloriana look like the cast of a new WB teen drama in their press photos; it certainly almost kept me from taking them seriously. And they deserve to be taken seriously, because “Wild At Heart” is more than another bit of evidence for my whole “country is the only genre to bother with what we used to call power pop” (because seriously, change the instrumentation and production here just a little and guys who still listen to Matthew Sweet or Fountains of Wayne or whatever would probably love this). It’s also the best example I’ve heard in 2009 of the pure ebullience pop music is capable of.

John Seroff: If Jack and Diane had kids conceived to Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” and those children were raised on a steady diet of Alabama, Miley Cyrus and Tom Cochrane, this might be what their first single would sound like: sunny, toe-tappin’, hand-clappin’ anthem pablum with Downy fresh, bell-clear voices; shiny, recycled hooks and an irony-free joyful heart. Banjos, fiddles and the trappings of country be damned, “Wild at Heart” owes less to Willie Nelson than to High School Musical. I sure wouldn’t want to live on an exclusive diet of anything this sweet, soft and ultimately empty but it’s not like anybody’s forcing me. Pass the fluffernutters.

Chuck Eddy: Four-part co-ed harmonies, which means Gloriana are to Little Big Town as Little Big Town are to Fleetwood Mac. Drum-machine-like approximations of Diddley-glam beat beneath, eventually briefly becoming more pronounced when the party voices come in. On paper, you’d think all that would add up to a hit at least as catchy as, say, Lady Antebellum’s. In reality, it feels kinda soggy.

Jonathan Bradley: “I’ll follow you where you’re leading/To the first sweet taste of freedom”: Gloriana sifts the gold dust out of the greeting card platitudes, and with a stomping, clapping beat and a caught-up-in-the-moment burst of acoustic guitar, they explode into an aching, blissful chorus. It doesn’t make sense at all, their talk of “rebel moon[s]” and “stars burn[ing] like diamonds,” but this is what these vibrant summer songs are meant to do; they are meant to cut through the hot air and critical remove, tear down your day-to-day drudgeries, and turn life into a movie. “Wild at Heart” is young love and nightswimming and June evenings and stupid, stupid, clichéd nonsense that at some rare and precious times actually turns out to be as magical as it is meant to be. These are those minutes when the seconds slow down, and for a moment every little thing in life becomes weightless and easy. Maybe the song really works because of its carefree ’90s breeziness, or its fresh-scrubbed boy-girl harmonies, or maybe the kicker is in the second verse when Rachel Reinert takes the reins from the guys and lets her voice ring clear and strong (“Got nothing to lose but time!”), but those seem like post-facto rationalizations. No, “Wild at Heart” is wonderful simply because it is so hackneyed. Give in, for god’s sake, give in: to kisses and bottle rockets and summer and being “hell-bent on chasing down that crazy slide.” Sometimes life — and pop — actually is this good.

Alex Ostroff: Four-part harmonies make me think of Fleetwood Mac, the stomp-clap beat scans as Mellencamp, and the mandolin seems more decorative than organic. Cheyenne Kimball’s pipes do seem a better fit for country than her teenpop debut (tho). This doesn’t connect the way Taylor or Miranda do – they’re not saying anything interesting enough to move me or make me identify with them – but as a slice of feel good country-pop, it’s catchy and fun. I’m willing to wait and see where they go from here.

Hillary Brown: Obnoxiously catchy and yet… obnoxiously catchy. This is very waterpark-waiting-in-line-realizing-you’re-singing-along-to-a-song-you-professed-to-hate, which means it’s kind of a secret success.

Iain Mew: Somehow this comes off as much filthier than it would if it spelt out its sex a bit more clearly. Even the bits which don’t seem like they could be double entendres feel like they should be! Maybe it’s the constant, fevered enthusiasm of it, so suggestive of the heady influence of hormones at work. It’s infectious stuff, and when they just burst into applause at the end it’s easy to want to join in.

Martin Skidmore: Party country rock: the voices are good, the harmonies even better, and the beats are unusually insistent and energetic for the genre – in fact it sometimes sounds as if it is faster and livelier than the main voice is entirely comfy with. Kind of fun, though it could have used a decent song and less vacuous lyrics.

9 Responses to “Gloriana – Wild At Heart”

  1. I like how the linked past Jukebox also shows Muse going in the opposite direction.

  2. “He kissed her, she said, “Mister/Take an inch and I’ll give you a mile”/I ain’t here to do anything half-way/Don’t give a damn what anyone might say”

    Doesn’t sound like abstinence to me.

  3. bahaha…you guys are great. you can stream the rest of the album on or if you care to see whether the rest of the album makes you want to frolic in a meadow with puppies and butterflies. Hint: It’s really f’ing good.

  4. “Tonight is tellin’ us we’re way too young”

  5. I don’t think they’re actually listening to the night, whatever its opinions are.

  6. It’s a weird line, both because there’s no object (too young for what?) and the subject is strange (*tonight* has opinions?). Perhaps it’s just my Bible-belt culture, but there’s not no reason to think “too young” codes “too young to have sex.” “I’ve got forever on the tip of my tongue” then reads as “we’re so much in love that we’ll no doubt get married and we can have sex at that point,” and “I just wanna free fall for awhile” reads as “just hold me as I fall more deeply in love with you.” But none of that explains how they come to this opinion. Does something magical happen when she sticks her hand in his back pocket?

    But if it’s not too young for sex, I don’t see what else it might be, because there’s nothing happening in the song over and above their desire for each other.

  7. Maybe it’s because I live in the socialist wilds of Canada, but I don’t read any of those lines that way, Martin. Particularly “Tonight is tellin’ us we’re way too young” – that came across as if it should end with “to care about being responsible” or something similar. Absent any grand statement on abstinence from the band, either view works, I think.

    (and even if they mean either of the two, that doesn’t mean we should settle for that if we prefer the other…)

  8. Sheesh. What hath the South done to me?

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