Wampus Multimedia, 2014
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/24/2014
Considering the economic train wreck that is today’s musical marketplace, and the seeming randomness of modern fame and fortune (Kardashians, anyone?), the real question is why wouldn’t an observant, insightful artist turn his or her attentions to the capriciousness of fate?
One thing’s for sure, singer-songwriter-guitarist Neil Luckett isn’t going quietly; his power trio tvfordogs’ fourth studio album By Chance opens with a triple-shot of thunder that will set your ears ringing and your legs twitching. Opener “Alibi” grabs immediately with a searching lyric and confectionary riffing of the Teenage Fanclub / Tom Petty school. Then the snarling kiss-off “Cecilia Lane” ups the tempo with a crashing open and relentless drive fueled by the hyperkinetic rhythm section of Mark Homer (bass) and Paul Jarrett (drums). If you haven’t been rocked back on your heels by now, the blisteringly heavy and superbly hooky “Solid Ground” will surely do it, a masterful R.E.M.-meets-Black Crowes stomper.
Echoing a Warren Zevon song title, Luckett and company shift gears for the lush melodicism and layered harmonies of the mid-tempo “Splendid Isolation.” It’s another tight number that doesn’t waste a note, and leads right into the rather Kinks-ian power-jangle of “Another Time,” heard again later on “Her Little Secret.” The dreamy “Escape Velocity” paints another shade of the melodic-rock rainbow, with the feel of a British Invasion tune reimagined by Pink Floyd.
Next up, the sweet half-acoustic interlude “Sunshine” leads into one of the album’s highlights, as “Try” delivers a wide-open rocker brimming with hard-earned wisdom: “But I try, and I try, not so hard / That I might succeed / And I lie, and I lie to myself / Like a prisoner who’s afraid to be free.” Yeah, that’s the stuff—but wait, there’s more.
“I surrender myself to my fate / To where the wind blows, to where the tide takes” sings Luckett in the gospel prologue to the Springsteenesque, saxophone-and-glockenspiel-accented closing title track. It’s a musical left turn from everything that precedes it, and succeeds beautifully, providing genuine uplift and resolution at the close of an album about facing up to the uncertainties of fate. “I can’t do any more than I have / I raise my hands / And live by chance.”
As if charting a trip through the five stages of grief, By Chance moves from denial and anger through bargaining and depression to reach acceptance. A gifted songsmith, Luckett leads listeners on a memorable journey full of jangle and whimsy, exasperation and defiance. Take a chance and ride along.