Ned Collette & Wirewalker

Over the Stones, Under the Stars

(Dot Dash; 2009)

By Clayton Purdom | 18 November 2009

I’m not sure how I came to be CMG’s official voice of commentary on Ned Collette records. Jokes & Trials (2006) sort of emerged fully-formed into our hive-mind’s “favorites” cluster and stuck, and I just sort of ended up writing about it. There is no “why” here. This process of obsequious emergence and gelatinous congealment contains a number of things in common with the manner in which most writers end up sticking around at Cokemachineglow itself, but lest I get off topic, Collette cemented himself in said “favorites” cluster in said hive-mind by then recording not one but two tracks for our ensuing Fantasy Podcast, and then releasing this sophomore record Future Suture (2007) right after that which was just this effortlessly expanded thing with more instruments and sounds and more blissful highs and nuanced lows that still felt as if grown organically from the exact same artist, still sounded hewn from that exact same artist that had created that sanguine debut but still sounded entirely different and new. Which is a fucking difficult and rare thing to do: grow, effortlessly and quickly. I am referring here to the term “sophomore slump.”

Anyway, he’s got a new record, and it’s as good as his other two. By the time you hear “Come Clean,” the fourth track on Over the Stones, Under the Stars, a riffy, Krautrockish affair full of big distorted washes of guitar offset by palm-muted locomotion, the idea of a junior jackoff (this is not an accepted critical term yet) can also be stricken from consideration. He’s three for three. He’s out here pulling AOTY numbers out of CMG like he’s the fucking LeBron James of singer/songwriters, just fucking swooshing rainbows across the wistful<—->sedate spectrum, one melancholy guitar solo (“Mr. Day”) at a time, and clowning atop your Wills Stratton and your Loneys Dear with effortless affability. I find his stuff impossible to dislike.

But I dislike most stuff like this. Here are two other things worth noting about Ned Collette, about me, and about me reviewing Ned Collette in particular. One (1) is that how I became the official voice of appreciation for Ned Collette despite him being pretty much universally liked by our staff is again really weird, because I essentially dislike “songwriting” and “singing” and so my take on Ned Collette, who is essentially a “singer/songwriter,” is probably less than perfect, or less educated than like Scott’s or Peter’s take, and so certainly less eloquent or sentence-length-considerate than their reviews would be. See comments above on given artist’s inherent affability, a confluence of Collette’s Disney-wholesome baritone and lyrical style. And two (2) is that a lot of my tomfoolery here is irrelevant as a few of these tracks are available right now, today, to listen to, including the aforementioned “Come Clean” which is really reason enough to look into any record, as you will learn when you listen to it, beginning now:

Sounds good, right? You see how the chug is gradually stressed by organs and tingles until it explodes, purposefully, like a great Spoon track? And then how also-available “All The Signs” is the exact inverse, is conversely made constantly-stressed by organs, and seems to sort of be constantly exploding, like a fucking Arcade Fire song? Yes: Arcade Fire and Spoon? That’s not a question. I’m harping on these because they’re available, but also because they’ve got some immediate holy-shit to them, and Collette doesn’t frequently indulge in holy-shitness, which brings me to maybe my third point (3) in this review: there is some holy-shitness to this record that is new to Ned Collette.

Collette’s discography is this bafflingly rewarding thing where the subtlest injection of new sonic blood can craft a whole and remarkable new beast that is still, somehow, resonant with the genealogy of the original. And so the unmodified Ned Collette—the root organism—was the debut, which was not eponymous but might as well have been; it seemed entirely of itself and untarnished. And in this manner, it was sort of perfect. It was The Ned Collette Sound that he’s been mutating giddily since then. These past two albums have shown Collette playing mad scientist with the creature, discovering new mutations of that same original artistic vision. With Over the Stones, Under the Stars he seems to be pulling the genealogical makeup to maximum elasticity, till tearing, filling in the open space until it grows into stark, dark, frayed and tensile things. There will come a point when just toying like this will not work; he will have to return to the lab and make something new. But that time is not now. Right now, the scientist has a new creation, and when it lumbers out looking both like the thing it once was and some thundering new monstrosity, leering with pipe organs jutting out of its back, a gentle-faced brooding beast, you will get my enthusiasm.