Per Second, Per Second, Per Second... Every Second


Aware Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


I admit it. The first time I listened to this disc -- Taunton, Massachusetts trio Wheat's major-label debut -- I ended up scratching my head, hitting eject, and putting it back in the stack. "What exactly is it you guys are trying to be?" was the question on my mind as snatches of earnest Jimmy Eat World emo, airy U2-ish rock and catchy Fountains of Wayne smart-pop drifted by in a furry haze of production diddles and musical left turns.

A week later, I listened again -- and was glad of it.

Wheat's long and winding road to a major included a pair of indie discs (notably 1999's well-regarded Hope And Adams) and a long stretch in legal limbo thanks to the collapse of Nude Records, who used to own their contract. Regaining their freedom and signing to the label that's also the home of John Mayer has catapulted this band into the mainstream, and while there are occasional awkward/trying-too-hard moments here, they're outshined by the boldness and sweetness of these songs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Per Second, Per Second, Per Second...Every Second (hereafter Per Second) isn't the easiest listen in the world because it jumps around stylistically like a Ritalin-deprived 12-year-old. Delicate ballads like "The Beginner" bump against heavier tunes like "Can't Wash It Off," even as the dreamy/crafty experimentalism of tracks like "Hey So Long (Ohio)" and "This Rough Magic" both disorients and intrigues. Chants-over-strings meet crunchy guitars, and a slow-jazz arrangement is decorated with a lengthy trumpet solo… predictable this isn't, but worth exploring? No question.

There's a certain familiarity to songs like "Closer To Mercury," with its Beatlesque backbeat, and kickoff single "I Met A Girl," with its somewhat obvious subject matter. And yet -- the former's witty, self-deprecating lyrics ring true ("Wouldn't you say / That I've been an idiot for you / I couldn't shake you if I tried"), and the latter's stuttering rhythm and spliced-in-from-some-other-song bridge cleverly betray your melodic expectations. Same goes for the expansiveness and hyperactive tempo shifts of "These Are Things" and the Bono-esque in-and-out-of-falsetto vocals on "Life Still Applies" -- they lull you with melody and then startle you with shifting dynamics.

The highlight of this disc for me is "Some Days," which features the brilliant mismatch of sunny-Saturday Steve Miller guitars and laconic Bob Dylan vocals, and its companion "World United Already," another energizing, upbeat track with strong melodic hooks. Both are -- thankfully -- relatively clean of the production effects that intrude on some other tracks here. The only other misstep of note is sequencing the somewhat slow, unremarkable "Breathe" second on the disc.

So what are the boys in Wheat (guitarist Ricky Brennan, drummer Brendan Harney and singer-guitarist Scott Levesque) trying to be? I think the word is fresh -- and I think they've achieved it. A collection of sparkly, propulsive alterna-pop songs that take imaginative turns, Per Second is an impressive re-launching of Wheat's interrupted career. I'm glad I came around for another try.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Aware Records, and is used for informational purposes only.