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The Return of I, Wombat
Local hard rock favorites unleash new CD Cry Like A Man
By Jim Fester
Fort Wayne Reader
Has it really been since 2007 that we’ve heard a new album from Fort Wayne’s hard rock masters I, Wombat? A glance at FWR’s archives confirms that indeed, it’s been that long since I, Wombat’s debut (7/7/07 was the official release date), and while they’ve played shows and been active during that time, there’s been no follow up.
Until now. I, Wombat’s second album Cry Like A Man drops this month, and they’re marking its release with a show at CS3 on Friday, March 23.
So what’s the delay? “Over the years, we've acquired enough gear to record a decent album, with a little help from our friends Clint Roth and Mike Picotte,” says singer Chad Fry. “We began writing in October of 2009 and started recording in June 2010, which seems like a long time to work on an album, because it is. But that's kind of what we wanted to do. We wanted to take our time in our own studio with no clock ticking over our heads reminding us of how much we were spending. We were able to write, record, and rework things at our own pace, and because of that we are all happy with the results.”
The band deserves to be happy with the results, and fans of hard rock will be happy with the results, too. You won’t find a single clunker among the 11 tracks on Cry Like A Man. Across the entire CD, I, Wombat — a four-piece with Chad Fry on vocals and guitar; Darren Monroe on vocals and bass; Marc Accilien on drums; and Lou Cucinelli on lead guitar — play with assurance and confidence; these are musicians who know their chops, and they also know how to write songs.
Which isn’t to say Cry Like A Man is all about craft. Anyone who has seen an I, Wombat show can tell you what the band is about — they play hard rock, though it’s a brand of hard rock that’s sort of difficult to define (more on that in a bit). My own demo version of Cry Like A Man arrives with the exhortation “PLAY ME LOUD” printed on its plain paper sleeve, and since I always do what I’m told…
It kicks off with “The Vest Has Sleeves,” a tight, no-frills slab of desert biker rock with a hooky pre-chorus of chanted “yeahs.” It’s followed by “Black Covered In Black,” which starts off with a menacing bass line under feedback and features a bluesy Zepplenoid guitar riff in the chorus.
Drummer Marc Accilien ranks “Black Covered In Black” as maybe his favorite on the album, saying “…it’s a good representation of our style of rock,” and indeed, it’s the kind of sound I’ve always associated with I, Wombat, and I think that holds true for many people who have seen one of their shows. But here’s where it gets difficult: for every song on Cry Like A Man that makes you think “yes. I, Wombat is a hard rock band,” there’s another one that throws you off.
“Behind the Sun,” for example, certainly rocks, and it’s also loud — bass player Darren Monroe takes over singing duties for this one — but the hooky vocal line, and the wall-of-sound built by Fry and Cucinelli’s guitars, result in something that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid-90s “alternative” radio station (I mean that as a compliment, by the way).
And then, what would you make of a song like “St. Louis”? The penultimate track on Cry Like A Man, it alternates a nearly atmospheric verse in 3/4 time with a straight-forward punk chorus, and throws in a heavy mid-section that verges on proggy.
Or what about “In Loving Memory of Chrissy Snow,” which follows a verse that sounds a bit like early 80s British ska (think “Mirror In the Bathroom”) with pounding hard rock?
And then there’s “Fiasco,” with a verse that has a swing feel to the beat and melody; you could almost imagine Fry snapping his fingers while he sings it. Cucinelli calls “Fiasco”’s middle section “probably us at our prettiest,” and he’s right.
By all rights, songs like the three I just mentioned should not work, and in lesser musical hands, they’d probably be train wrecks. But I, Wombat makes each transition seamlessly — one part of your brain thinks “wow, I didn’t expect that,” while another thinks “this doesn’t sound unusual at all.”
So, yeah, I, Wombat rocks, and so does Cry Like A Man. You should play it loud. But the way I, Wombat confidently meld hard rock brawn with musicianship and song craft is what really makes Cry Like A Man a welcome return.
I, Wombat’s CD release party for Cry Like A Man happens at Calhoun Soups, Salads, & Spirits on March 23.
I, Wombat created the packaging (Chad Fry’s design) by hand screen-printing 200 cardboard cases for the limited edition CD release. Each one is numbered and hand-printed by I, Wombat. It will be available at local CD retailers and online.
For more on I, Wombat, go to wombatrocks.com