M. Ward - What a Wonderful Industry - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

M. Ward - What a Wonderful Industry

by Jon Burke Rating:6 Release Date:2018-06-08
M. Ward - What a Wonderful Industry
M. Ward - What a Wonderful Industry

Albums featuring ironic, snarky titles and/or cover art can be a double-edged sword. While the subversive and provocative are surely a lure for some prospective listeners, more often than not, records failing to live up to their name or face will anger their audience. Such is the case for M. Ward's self-released, What A Wonderful Industry - an exercise in what can happen when high-concept meets with mediocre execution.  

As a harbinger of what's to come, Ward's opening track, "Arrivals Chorus" blasts listeners in ears with all the force of a summer breeze. Think Duane Eddy or Santo & Johnny and you'll be in the right neighborhood. Twangy guitar, falsetto vocals and a laid back groove seemingly designed to be background music at your local farm-to-table brunch spot. Not that "Arrivals Chorus" is a bad song or poorly made--quite the contrary--the track is lush and polished to sonic perfection. 

Next-up, "Miracle Man" chugs along like early-Beatles meets The Velvet Underground. Over a reverent-but much-steadier-than-Mo-Tucker beat, Ward rambles on about becoming "A wolfpack by the light of the moon" and how it takes the "Wolf Man to show the Miracle Man who is who". I'm sure there's a grand metaphor here but the wolf man and miracle man imagery isn't particularly interesting. Ward's delivery and inflection suggest he's been listening to the Rolling Thunder Revue bootleg quite a bit. 

Whispy, vaporous tracks like "Shark" (love the G-funk synth whistle flourishes), "El Rancho" and "War & Peace" are all fine enough but offer so little sonic meat they come across as little more than filler. Similarly, the upbeat "Motorcycle Ride" and surf-y "Return to Neptune's Net" are lovely throwbacks to the Rock n' Roll of the early-1960's. But they only prove M. Ward to be quite adept at crafting music that sounds 50 years old. There is very little here that feels new or invigorating and the message about the music industry is lost amid Ward's sub-Dylan ramblings about various archetypes. 

The bottom line is What A Wonderful Industry fails to live up to its edgy tile, shark-toothed album cover and, worst of all, M. Ward's artistic capabilities. There's nothing here to complain about. It's all smooth and pleasant on the ears but so is silence and, with silence, you aren't disappointed about the missed opportunities to originate. I don't know if M. Ward is feeling uninspired but What A Wonderful Industry is a tepid example of a once-vital artist's range. 

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