DATELINE PORTLAND: Fresh from the land of beer, beards, and puckish hipster satire, comes Wild Bells, a thoroughly enchanting (and sorely needed) sextet of veteran musicians that thankfully fell together from a host of crucial and influential local bands. King Black Acid, State Flowers, James Angell, The Quags, Mission 5, Big Daddy Meatstraw and The She Bee Gees are just a smattering of the notable Northwest names that helped birth this bunch.
Just as the band’s pop smarts and marvelous battery of songs come from every nook and cranny across the sonic spectrum, Wild Bells, its self-titled debut album (which drops October 15), is a laser light show of esoteric daring seasoned with sincerity and superior craftsmanship. Produced by longtime Elliott Smith collaborator Tony Lash, with some studio assistance from King Black Acid mastermind Daniel Riddle, the album was funded by a well-armed Kickstarter campaign. And true to its we-the-people roots, the 11 tunes on Wild Bells truly represent—they’re as singular and adventurous as the madcap citizens of this fair metropolis.
So whether you’re lolling your noggin to the heavenly psychedelic chorus of “Skyscraper” or getting misty over “Parasite,” a devastating love-gone-wrong song, the blazing collective pedigree of Wild Bells shines through on every note.
Guitarist, songwriter, and primary singer Pete Ficht has juggled everything from folk-punk to power pop to trailer-park twang during his three-decade career. Bassist/singer Sean Tichenor (he sings “Parasite” and “Lunchbox”) and keyboardist Sean Farrell were called upon to invent mad spontaneous sounds and rigorously avoid clichés during their tenure with King Black Acid, a group that was as inventive and anti-formula as any in Northwest rock history.
Drummer Scott Pettitt brings the timekeeping precision of a studio stud, but shows time and again that he’s not afraid to get his toms dirty; check out the irresistible tribal boom-boom on “Carrion” or his loose-groove finesse on “Housewarming Party.”
Craig Stahr has served as guitar hero-for-hire in groups like The Quags and Mission 5 and his thorough knowledge of riffs is evident on “The Light” where he kicks up a genuine country ruckus. And on the last minute and a half of the towering “Skyscraper” the nimble picker has a glorious, mind-blowing meltdown that lights up the night.
Former She Bee Gees singer Ellen Louise adds her own pillowy voice to an already formidable array of harmonies and takes a gently mocking lead vocal on “Golden Boy” a sardonic gem about youth wasted on the young.
Considering the combined experience and wisdom of the players involved, it’s not terribly surprising that time and regret are recurring themes on this album. Look no further than “Precious Time” a whip-crack power-pop anthem about making the most of your minutes here on this mudball. And without coming right and saying so, Wild Bells want you to know that complete immersion into this album is time well spent.
- John Chandler, October 2013.
released October 15, 2013
SEAN FARRELL: keyboards
PETE FICHT: lead vocals, rhythm & acoustic guitars
ELLEN LOUISE: harmony vocals, lead vocal on "Golden Boy", co-lead vocal on "Precious Time"
SCOTT PETTITT: drums & percussion
CRAIG STAHR: lead guitar
SEAN TICHENOR: bass & harmony vocals, lead vocals on "Lunchbox" and "Parasite"
All songs by Pete Ficht, except "Beauty Mark" (Lyrics: Pete Ficht / Music: Wild Bells) and "Golden Boy" (Lyrics: Pete Ficht & Paul Custodio / Music: Pete Ficht).
Produced, mixed and mastered by TONY LASH
Additional recording by DANIEL RIDDLE
Art by JOLBY
Made in Portland, Oregon
all rights reserved