The ukulele or “Uke” for short, is an instrument that looks similar to a miniature guitar. You might have noticed in your local guitar shops lately, that they are all tending to keep some kind of an inventory for them. People speak about a “revival” of sorts regarding the instrument. I question the sense of “revival,” though. I’ve bought my fair share of ukuleles as well in recent history, a friend of mine, a local Portland artist by the name of Thumpergraph, turned me on to them by demonstrating how you could play just about anything on one. He showed me the infamous viral video of “While My Uke Gently Weeps” by Jake Shmabukuro. I was a bit stunned. I had no idea that the Uke could be such a versatile instrument. And that in part is why I question the sense of “revival,” so to speak. Prior to my edification about the instrument, I only thought of it as the thing a guy in a Hawaiian shirt would strum while the girls danced at a Luau. That to me was a pretty specific, so as I watch people incorporate new ways of playing an Uke, it’s not so much a revival in my mind as it is an evolution. Case and point, today’s artist the Winchester 7 & the Runners. Like the epiphanies I apperceived before, when I listened to the band’s new EP “Heart of the Golden Mystics” (streaming everywhere December 22nd); I had to do an audible “double take,” once I found out it is indeed a “Uke” centered in the rhythm section and electrified, producing their eclectic Classic Rock meets New Wave sound.
The EP consists of seven tracks, approximately a 26-minute voyage by virtue of synth-wavy, part-experimental, part-roots-rock n’ roll exposition. However, when ordering it on Bandcamp, the album also includes a bonus track, “Bizarre Love Triangle”- a New Order cover. A nice “crescendo” to the overall experience. Generally speaking, the EP is an uplifting and purposeful. There are moments where I can hardly believe it’s a ukulele being played. There are multiple sounds coming from several directions when listening to it, and you would be surprised just how much of that is in fact just the ukulele. I came upon this realization from checking out their YouTube channel. Definitely, something you should check out too, it’s a nice resource for visualizing all that’s being compiled into production.
1. “The Saint Simon Killer Returns” – Some of my favorite lyrics in this tune include: “Back to scene of the crime, to lay roses where your innocence died.” Featuring lush synth and distorted ukulele, this is a good opener and a good representation of what’s to expect. An uplifting song, the overall context revolves around the sentiment that “It’s gonna be alright, It’s gonna be just fine, it’s gonna change this time.”
2. “Her Double Life” – This track vibes like Tom Petty to me. It tells the story of a girl who lives a double life, “cause this one doen’t fit her right.” A quieter and more reflective track, it ventures into synth-pop during the chorus. It features a nice jazzy guitar solo, or it seems like the guitar might make an appearance in this one? I might very well be mistaken, all the more reason to check out the YouTube channel for some behind the scenes intel.
3. “Married For the Money” – This song is a nice distorted rock n roll track, makes you go, “is that really an uke?” Packed with bluesy, traditional rock and roll chords. My favorite lyrics: “You married for the money, one day when it’s gone, you’ll sit there on that beauty throne, wondering what you’ve done.”
4. “The Sum of Our Mistakes” – An interesting title, by now I can pick out the uke rhythms that I might have never guessed were initially without researching. It features a cool psychedelic solo. Lyrically introspective, the theme is as implied by title, the sum of our mistakes from cradle to the grave. A lyrical snippet as an example: “When the sum of our mistakes, led us to this fate/place.”
5. “Miss Merry’s Memoriam” – I find this track particularly interesting. It flirts with the sound of shoe-gaze, and at the same time offers Keith Richards type of licks during the verses. Beatle-esque type of word play and storytelling. “In those early days, the future was before us.”
6. “Your House of Cards” – This song is the featured single from the band and I think that’ a great choice. It reminds me a lot of the Stones and a “Tweetcore” favorite of mine, Eric Linden. There is lots of personality in the vocal delivery. It has an “arena rock” feel to it. For me, I would personally say that this is my favorite track on the EP and a big stand out.
7 “Things Will Get Better” – this song closes out the album (unless you’re ordering the Bandcamp version and getting that bonus track) on an uplifting note as expressly intended by the band. The song features swelling synth and meshes beautifully with the uke.
I think the band’s overall reach is wide. For fans of everything from Classic Rock, to New Wave, to Shoe-gaze, The Winchester 7 & the Runners would be a fine recommendation.
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This coverage was created via Musosoup #sustainablecurator
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