I’m by no means the first to come to this conclusion, but one of the secrets of fun is in the balance. We all dream of a lifetime of carefree revelry, but in reality we’d get bored without some responsibility to ground us. We all imagine endless nights of festivities and euphoria, but anyone who has lived through a multi-day hangover can tell you that’s not feasible forever. You have to find the balance. A little bit of being a serious functioning adult, a little bit of wildness. A good rock album follows this pattern as well, offering a solid blend of emotional depth and serious feeling combined with a good time. Nashville band Wild Cub’s new release Closer attempts to follow this pattern. On the fun tracks, it excels. On the other half, it falters.
Closer starts on a good note with the high-flying “Magic.” A tale of trying to recapture the “magic” of life, the track captures each member’s talents perfectly. Keegan DeWitt’s singing carries a nice inflection that suits a joyous celebration and can give the higher notes a little bit of extra push. DeWitt and Jeremy Bullock share guitar duties, and the dual guitars give the track a deeper blend and sound. Harry West has put in the work on the bass, and the album’s best his bass lines provide the necessary framework to allow the raucousness to build and expand as it needs to.
When the whole band is clicking and working within some of the more pop-infused areas of music, Closer is a great time. “I Fall Over” and “Clicks” are particular highlights, with lots of energy and some great guitar parts. “Somewhere” brings horns into the mix, and if you’ve read any of my prior work you know I’m a sucker for any rock or pop song that can effectively use brass. Wild Cub clearly can play and they know their way around what makes a rock song tick.
The issues come in when Closer tries to tone down the wild rock sound and move into more serious, ballad-like fare. The creativity that fuels the band’s upbeat anthems unfortunately does not transition well into more midtempo fare. “Wait” aims to be a big, moving moment in the middle of the album, but is instead fuzzy and unfocused, guitars crashing aimlessly as the song seems to drag much longer than its runtime. “Speak” and “Fire” suffer from the same problems, while “Rain” might be the worst of the bunch in meandering about. Instead of creating quiet moments of emotion on the album, these songs instead just serve as watered down versions of the rock vision the band employs so deftly elsewhere on the album. It’s not even that I would call these songs ‘bad’ per say, but they could be categorized as either ‘forgettable’ or ‘something you should skip’.
When Wild Cub are having fun on the upbeat rock jams, Closer is an album that is perfect for a good time. Unfortunately the lack of focus and merely adequate nature of the album’s slower fare drag it down. While it’s a very uneven second effort from the Nashville rockers, it’s still worth checking out if you need a couple new tracks to add to your party time playlists.