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Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby - Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby

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Artist: Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby

Album: Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby

Label: Stiff

Review date: Nov. 11, 2008

In the ‘70s, Richard Thompson made some of the best music of his career by adopting a Muslim tradition of using the language of romantic love to engage in a dialogue with the almighty. Amy Rigby does something similar to sketch out her relationship with a fading American icon on “Astrovan,” her first contribution to the “he said, she said” series of songs that comprise her first album with husband Wreckless Eric (née Eric Goulden). The recent drop in gas prices notwithstanding, the latter days of the internal combustion engine seem to be upon us. What will happen to America’s love affair with the car when we’re all back to riding burros, albeit ones with solar panels strapped to their rumps to power our individual entertainment-communication modules?

“Astrovan,” which recently got played on that audio temple to the automobile Car Talk, reveals the human capacity to wax nostalgic about any irritant once it has passed. It’s about a tour van that hemorrhaged cash until the day it finally got stolen and stripped, yet even Rigby’s hubby thought it was about a man the first time he heard it. Her run at alt-country stardom may be in the same state as the genre – seriously stalled – but her creative partnership with Mr. Goulden offers a way out of the cul-de-sac. Rigby’s best songs here – “Astrovan” and the wry trapped-in-Cleveland tale “A Taste of the Keys” – stand up to anything I’ve ever heard her do. But she’s swapped her usual thrift-shop-meets-NPR twang for homemade psychedelic and bedroom-punk duds stitched together by her better half.

Turns out that Wreckless Eric, a veteran of flash-in-the-pan new wave stardom ending with major label failure, Medway garage-rock with the Len Bright Combo, and even having one of his songs sung by Will Ferrell, has gotten pretty handy in the home studio. You want Beach Boys mixed with radio collage? Or maybe a Johnny Cash song re-imagined as a budget cruise-ship samba? He’s your man. (Well, maybe you don’t want the Cash cover – “I Still Miss Someone” is the one wrong step on an otherwise amiable record.)

As befits people in their fifties with a lot of great rock-life stories but not much of a retirement plan, Eric and Amy are as inclined to look over their shoulders and muse where their youth and brain cells went as they are to look ahead into an uncertain world and hope it treats their just-grown kids kindly. This is mom-and-dad rock, no more ready to pack up the fuzzboxes than it is to become a grandparent. Wanna guess which one will come first? Especially given Eric’s penchant for spitting out bitter loser anthems like “The Downside of Being a Fuck Up” that are as catchy and vulgar as hell, my money is on the latter.

By Bill Meyer

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