The Infidels – Wounds Time Won’t Heal – Album Review
It’s always awesome to have one of our official SBS Live This Week interview-alumni back with us on our pages again – and Ian Dellinger’s band The Infidels has shown a steady evolution over the course of its existence. Been nearly a couple of years since the last time we had this dude’s band featured here – and wouldn’t ya know it, you’re not seeing The Infidels appear here by mere coincidence after all – there’s a brand-new record out there called Wounds Time Won’t Heal that reveals this band’s 100% best to-date!
With the ring of an alarm clock (because, you know, it’s everyone’s favorite sound), “Don’t Let It Stop” springs into action quickly and pumps out a seriously inspired beginning exploding with colorful sound spillin’ out of its every pore. Awesome parts on the keys…all-in-all, it’s got great energy – for me, it was all about the more low-key moments of “Don’t Let It Stop” that seemed to find The Infidels settling into the tightest version of the band’s sound, but don’t get me wrong – the entertainment starts flowin’ instantly right from the drop of the first opportunity to shake things up post-alarm clock. Dude’s got my attention right away here, no question about – not only because “Don’t Let It Stop” comes out with a burst of quick-paced energy that’s a bit less akin to the most of what I know from The Infidels, but listen to these HOT keyboards will ya? No joke – it’s been a while since I heard a song where the keys stole the show, and that’s pretty much what they accomplish right of the ol’ bat here. For those of you that dig what you hear like I do, you’ll be stoked to know that this won’t be the last time you’ll hear the keys on Wounds Time Won’t Heal – they show up lots & the contribution to this album is absolutely essential. A hybrid vibe that combines a mod-style of cool with a punked-up energy in the verses, and a brilliant melodic hook to fuel the heart of the chorus that’s as engaging as anything you’ve heard this side of Matt Berninger or The National. While it’s probably fair to say you’ll find a grittiness to this opening cut that you won’t find on every tune, and a split-second here & there that could potentially be tighter – none of any of that is detrimental, just observational…as far as supplyin’ your speakers with quality songwriting and a whole lotta fired-up energy goes, “Don’t Let It Stop” has no problem lettin’ it all loose. The results become a wildly passionate adventure with a thrashing melodic approach that reveals The Infidels has indeed, embraced this moment in time & music for all it has to offer, clearly ready to kick some ass.
“The History You Know” felt like the track that probably surprised me the most in how much I absolutely loved it. The Infidels always put together something well worth listening to – but this cut, is really a full display of next-level lo-fi crossover sound & pure genius in action. A lot of what Ian sings reminds me of the Mark Lanegan & Nick Cave types of artists out there…that bold vocal sound that seems to come with an inherent wisdom and ability to read between the lines of all that’s written in this world. Maybe add in a bit of something like Social Distortion here…heck, maybe even a bit of Johnny Cash in there too – somewhere between all those comparisons fused together, you’d find the sound of a song like “The History You Know” – no matter how many times I spun my way through this record over the course of this week, I never felt like I could get enough of this cut. And really, for a short tune, there are SO MANY reasons as to why that is. I think the vocal hooks alone in the design of both the verse and chorus would be enough for the majority of listeners out there to wanna ride with “The History You Know” to begin with – but when you factor in how straight-up inventive, haunting, and absolutely AWESOME the music on this song is, it’s just a pure audible slam-dunk when it comes to the creativity you’ll find in this track. Production-wise I probably feel a bit similar about this as I did towards “Don’t Let It Stop,” but in my opinion, it works to the advantage of the weird wildness you’ll find on “The History You Know” and fully suits the addictive strangeness in this vibe. It’s like you can SEE the ghosts floating through your mind as you listen to the verses of this song…and I suppose more than anything else, that’s probably where “The History You Know” stands out the most to me…it’s just like you’re in the middle of a freakout jam that’s taking place in the middle of a graveyard at midnight in the shadows of All-Hallows’ Eve – and I freakin’ love it! One of the most compelling sets of ideas I’ve heard in a song this year without question – it’s like The Infidels warp time & space around you as you listen…the sensory vibes & haunting textures that cling to your bones here can’t be understated – it’s absolutely as exquisite as it is extraordinary. You’d probably take this to bed with a few nightmares, were it not balanced out with the catchiness you’ll find fueling the chorus…”The History You Know” flexes & morphs between dimensions of sound with ease.
Musically, I’m honestly just endlessly impressed by the finer details you’ll find at work in these songs – I felt like what we just heard in “The History You Know” was brilliantly unique – and truly, the very same could just as easily be said about “Up In Flames.” A lot of the time it’s not always about the main elements of what we hear…you’ll enjoy that too – but what I’m getting at is that underneath the surface, you’ll really notice just how much work & attention to detail Ian has put into this new record. Production-wise, I’d be inclined to say this cut has the tightest mix in the first three tunes…just a bit more polished up here on “Up In Flames,” but that smoother effect can travel quite a long way when it comes to listening ears out there. The piano & strings added into “Up In Flames” would be another major part of what makes this work so well – and let’s not forget what’s clearly one of the best sounds to be found from the sliding guitar that you’re gonna hear…not just this year, but ever – it’s stockpiled with character. While I think there’s an argument to be made that the first two cuts are probably going to make a more immediate impact and impression on listeners out there on those initial tours through the album in terms of their memorable ideas – “Up In Flames” isn’t really all that far behind with the added clarity in the production and sensational selection of sound goin’ on. Ian plays this perfectly, giving it all a Lou Reed-esque level of cool…maybe a hint of some of that backwoods style of melody you’d find in something like Golden Smog…and the full imagery & atmosphere you’d expect to find from a songwriter of his caliber. “Up In Flames” is a mellower tune by comparison to the opening cuts, but its laidback demeanor makes for a marvelous experience as you ponder Ian’s words and dig the smooth execution at work – I love, love, love the way each layer of his instrumentation on this song seems to completely communicate with the others, generating a call & response between it all with a unified vibe.
Something like “Wherever The Tracks Go” reminds me a lot of what we hear in Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders quite often, and just like Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders almost always reminds me of the Canadian-based band The Headstones – you can add another tick to the tally of songs out there that draw that comparison. There’s a bit of the ol’ Mark Lanegan in here as well once again – a legendary dude that Ian Dellinger tends to bear a striking resemblance to, even if he’s never attempted to specially sound like the guy…it’s the natural effect of hearing someone with a low baritone voice & their own sense of what’s cool. I ain’t gonna lie to ya – of this particular set, “Wherever The Tracks Go” is probably not gonna end up at the top of my list as to what makes this album as great as it is…but I also look at it this way too; even if this was at the bottom of the pile – I’m not saying it IS, I’m sayin’ even IF it was, The Infidels are in great shape because it’s still a pretty damn good tune. There ain’t nothing wrong with just wanting to turn up the amplifiers and rock out for a moment or two, and the more straight-ahead approach to “Wherever The Tracks Go” suggests that is what this song is really best served to suit. The Infidels are amped-up and ready to rock, thick low-end tones radiating with the strings reverberatin’ with emphatically spirited sound that’ll keep you fully entertained and rockin’ along right with it. Like I said, it’s ultimately a tougher call when you stack it up against the strength of the songs in the lineup of Wounds Time Won’t Heal – I’d have no problem whatsoever tellin’ ya that this is my favorite record from The Infidels to-date, and it’s in saying that, that ya gotta recognize “Wherever The Tracks Go” is stacked up against some really stellar competitors for your attention and affection. Some people out there are gonna listen to “Wherever The Tracks Go” and it’ll be their favorite song on the entire album – and right on, all the more power to ya – any of these seven cuts could be a justifiable favorite. You’ll find no arguments from me on that – that’s all a matter of personal preference at the end of the day, and we’ve all got that ingrained in us in our own special way – the real bottom line is that The Infidels should be proud of a record that gives us such a range of choices to fill that number one spot on our playlists with. Wounds Time Won’t Heal has us all spoiled for choice when it comes to quality tunes.
“Took Me By Surprise” basically just did to me what it’s title would imply was about to happen – I was almost taken aback by how direct the opening line of this song was! One of those real cases of ‘tell us how you really feel, will ya?’ – Ian ain’t exactly holding back on his thoughts & emotions in the lyrical details of this song, and that blunt directness & unfiltered honesty reveals real insight within his words and a grizzled wisdom that connects. “You took me by surprise – you ripped out my heart and left me to die” – it’s like, literally the first thing you hear in this tune – and there’s no doubt it sets the tone of emotional blindsides that take place throughout the lyricism of this cut. At the top-end of his melody, Ian might remind ya of Gord Downie (R.I.P.), and at the lower-end of the scale, might even remind you of someone closer to Robert Smith…he sings this one with a lot of versatility to his voice, and boldly – that’s the real key here – he’s put in a stunningly confident performance that gets the maximum potential out of the power he’s written into “Took Me By Surprise.” If it wasn’t for the track to follow – I’d be mighty tempted to tell ya this is the single for Wounds Time Won’t Heal – but the reality is that the title-track to come next will take that role on without question…in which case “Took Me By Surprise” probably comes out second of the songs that might be released to entice ya into the rest of the album. There’s a major storyteller’s vibe that comes along with “Took Me By Surprise” – it’s basically a prime example of how to set up a sound that’s going to have everyone hanging on your every word. With the orchestral atmosphere in the background, the clever twists in the melody, a highlight performance from Ian on the microphone – it’d be pretty hard to complain about this cut from any angle; it’s a great song. It’s grim, it’s desolate, it’s somehow still wildly inspired…The Infidels have another real standout here.
That being said, as the title track began, I couldn’t help but find myself instantly thinking I was listening to the record’s most accessible cut and single-worthy tune…this is undeniably catchy, if not completely all-out addictive. Y’all know that moment…when you hear an artist or band in their element and there’s almost no other way to describe it otherwise…everything just snaps naturally right into place and sounds like it’s right where it belongs – that’s “Wounds Time Won’t Heal” – and I can’t imagine anything stopping this song from becoming a serious fan favorite universally when it comes to The Infidels catalog of tunes. If the catchiness of the vocal melody & low-key groove Ian slips right into singing this cut doesn’t get ya, the wild personality & tone of his guitar will – so don’t go thinkin’ you’re gonna escape this song somehow, cause y’ain’t – one way or the other, “Wounds Time Won’t Heal” will earn your attention, and keep it. A track like this has that big & fuzzy, inviting playfulness that you’d find in The Dandy Warhols – “Wounds Time Won’t Heal” is just pure good times in Alt/Indie/College/Garage-Rock – the straight-up exact level of catchiness in the vibe and gritty sound that makes real lo-fi music actually connect. Some of these guitar tones just straight-up stroke the JOY lobes of your cerebral cortex…that’s a thing, right? I’ll admit I’m no medical expert…but this felt like how those neurosurgeons go in and poke your brain in a way that can’t help but elicit a response from us – like a genuine reflex, we respond as listeners to the rhythm & groove of a song like “Wounds Time Won’t Heal” and all its extraordinary textures & tones with nothing but pure smiles – it’s just a sound that makes you feel GOOD and wanna turn this UP as loud & proud as you can possibly take your stereo. No joke folks – this song radiates sensational musicianship – Ian’s vocals are a brilliant fit – and all-around, you’re in-store for hooks that are gonna beam out of every opportunity they could, verse to chorus & back again. To be clear – I’m probably just as addicted to the creativity in a cut like “The History You Know” when it comes right down to it – but in terms of what’s purely universally accessible sound, this title track is really second to none. Does that make it the best song in The Infidels catalog to-date? I’ll leave you all to be the real judge & jury on that – but I can promise ya, I could certainly make myself a strong case for that based on what I’m hearing – “Wounds Time Won’t Heal” is as tight as tight can be, loose as a goose in the groove it has at the core of it all, and it’s just as much fun to listen to as it is songwriting to be respected for its craft.
Alright. So. Let’s be real here – this final spot in the lineup is just about impossible to fill now. Coming after the title-track isn’t just a tall ask – it’s superhuman…and in my opinion, pretty much any other song to follow it would be in for a world of hurtin’ trying to raise the stakes any further, or struggle even just to hold its own and not get passed right over. “God Is Dead” has a slight advantage in the sense that it’s still a fairly unique vibe to this whole lineup, with Ian opting for a song that sounds like it takes more of its influence from The Doors than anywhere else this time around for the finale cut. Keyboards again make a noticeable appearance in the spotlight and a starring role – sounding spectacular, and also like there’s a significant influence from The Doors in the musicianship & writing to go along with Ian’s voice. Ultimately, I felt like “God Is Dead” does what it could do with the spot it had in this lineup…and I felt like it gives you that feeling of wanting more of everything you just heard at the conclusion of Wounds Time Won’t Heal in the right way – there’s really been seven different layers, approaches, styles, and unique vibes to be found in all of these songs fundamentally – it’s Ian that’s brought the cohesion to’em all overall through the recognizable identity he carries with him inherently through his baritone vocals. Even with that working to his advantage, which it does – the diversity in this set-list works brilliantly with how different each song really is, yet how much they all sound like they still belong together in this lineup – hence, we get to a song like “God Is Dead,” and while it might not get us quite as excited as the title-track did right beforehand, still gives you another quality song, and a reason to keep on listening.
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