With the retro-mining juggernaut rummaging through the '70s and '80s for post-punk inspiration, it was simply a matter of time before it mined Public Image Ltd. That band, most famously the post-Sex Pistols outfit for Johnny Rotten/Lydon, often saw Lydon drawl a kind of stream-of-consciousness rant over the top of music that seemed to rattle on as if unaware of Lydon's vocalizing.
Wilderness don't cop PiL's sound in a purely imitative way, but more in spirit if
Lydon, in his own way, led PiL to a particular place with his rambling, Wilderness
do so with a greater sense of cohesion. James Johnson leads his wild band into
uncharted realms by sheer dint of charisma. He's a frontman of the cavalier type,
crazily launching his bandmates and himself headlong into the world. Listening
a response similar to the fear/joy felt witnessing chaos, the same frisson you
seeing some raving lunatic coming toward you on the street: you want to flee,
but at the same time find the scene totally compelling.
Turning to the lyric sheet only confirms the careening Gertrude Stein-style twist-and-repeat antics that you sense in listening. The first lines of "Marginal Over," which opens the album, deliver this shock of coherent incoherence every time the song is played: "Face the facts o fact the face, trace the act oh act the trace, erase the act o act the erase, replace the fact o fact the replace/ Well marginal over spectacle there, spectacle there, over wrung woes let the light show, let the light show."
It really isn't a big step from that to some of Stein's famous lines: "In feeling anything is resting, in feeling anything is mounting, in feeling there is resignation, in feeling there is recognition, in feeling there is recurrence and entirely mistaken there is pinching." Or this, also from Stein, also well known: "Do we suppose that all she knows is that a rose is arose is a rose is a rose."
What you get in both is an affecting idea that transcends the superficial mish-mash of words and phrases. It's a poetry meant for ears and hearts, not brains and eyes. Musically, if there's Interpol's epic take on the '80s in Wilderness's guitars, there's less sense of austerity and coldness, more sense of unbridled joy in playing music of taking this whacked-out journey to wherever their ranting frontman feels like going today.
It's fucking wild, and not just because that's a pun on their name, but because
their name is the most apt encapsulation of a band in years Wilderness
are an adventure away from tethered control, away from this cold, ironic love
of the '80s, away from this world of rational bullshit. Wilderness make sense
only because they don't make sense.