Winchester 7 & The Runners – Heart Of The Golden Mystics – Album Review
Well what do we have here…it’s these happy chappies we know & love, Winchester 7 & The Runners, returning to our pages once again! On the technical front, it’s actually their third appearance this year – you might remember them from appearing here at the very start of 2022 with a review we wrote up on the album Catacomb Songs as January kicked into gear, or perhaps later on in that same month with a special interview we ran on the SBS Podcast…and if you don’t remember that stuff, click those links! Our history together runs even deeper…we’ve technically been listening since around the 2020 mark with the album Argos Holiday, and I wrote about one of their singles called “Beneath The Moon And The Stars” in 2021, which I can still recall by memory to this very day if I’m not playin’ it on the ol’ playlist over here. You get the idea – I’ve been listening! And it’s because I’ve been listening that I can speak to the fact that Winchester 7 & The Runners has really started to surge into their prime on this new record.
Word on the street is that they’ll actually be back on our pages sooner than you might think as well – I’ve heard rumors of Winchester 7 & The Runners taking part in a written interview with us very soon…
As “The Saint Simon Killer Returns” unwinds at the start and kicks into gear, I am STOKED about both the sound and the energy I hear from the band…this is how to get things movin’ quickly, and I’d reckon I won’t be the only person excited about what I hear. As many of you no doubt know already, Winchester 7 & The Runners do things a bit differently than the rest via using a ukulele as the lead instrument – and while I always generally dig what I hear in how that instrument plays such an extraordinary role in this band’s music…I think I’d put that particular element in about fourth place when it comes to what made an instant impression on me with this opening track! THAT, dear readers, dear friends…is not a bad problem to have at all – that’s a complete indication of how the surrounding pieces of this puzzle have raised the stakes to support what’s generally the lead piece driving the rest. Hittin’ the mark on all-fronts though, “The Saint Simon Killer Returns” is crushin’ it with perfect bass-lines, a really smart layer of digitalized energy in the background, and vocals that are nailin’ it from start to finish. The most you’re gonna find me conceding to ya is that the verses probably outshine the chorus…but what kind of big deal is that? All that means is you get more bulletproof hooks earlier on in a song as opposed to finding them later…it really ain’t an issue. I always figure that as long as there ARE some hooks to be found somewhere in any given tune, then you’re on solid ground and you’ve given your music a chance to reach the ears that it should be. Winchester 7 & The Runners have put all the right attention to detail into this opening track…it’s catchy as hell no matter which part of it you’re listening to, the energy is seriously radiant and enticing, and the production on this whole track is exactly what we wanna hear.
If you’re looking for the kind of synchronicity that you’re used to in terms of the ebb & flow of a song and what part’s gonna stand out to ya the most, have no fear, “Her Double Life” is here to restore the magic in the shift from verse to chorus. I feel like the synth/digital aspect of Winchester 7 & The Runners has already played more of a role on this record than I remember…but I might need to check my notes to verify that, so don’t quote me on that part. All I can tell ya for sure, is that the extra detail surrounding the main meat of these songs, the ukulele, bass, and drums…is really making a massive difference in the completeness of the material this time around, in my opinion. I don’t think that a track like “Her Double Life” is going to need me to advocate much for it…it’s essentially designed to reach the masses out there and I don’t hear anything that will get in the way of it doing exactly that. The verses already have enough hooks, the pre-chorus gives you even more, and the chorus packs the payload for the rest of’em without hesitation. Lyrically, it seems like it’s a neat commentary on how we think we know someone, but that we never really do…and that the person we think we know can be someone else at the exact same time…at least, that’s my theory. All-in-all, “Her Double Life” ain’t all that far removed from something like you’d find in The Killers when you hear how the chorus works and the melody you’ll hear within it…all that’s missing from it is arguably that one massive moment where the vocals really give ya that Brandon Flowers-esque huge finale, but believe me, I’m not complaining that it’s not there. Winchester 7 & The Runners give this track a professional level of controlled cool, and stay squarely in their lane the entire time…you do get a quality finale, and it’s nothing too over the top.
Built on the rhythm and groove, “Married For The Money” seems like it’ll have no problem being a fan favorite for sure…you feel this one from the very second it starts. While I’d be the first to tell ya that I’m completely impressed with how much the ukulele has been harnessed into getting the best out of its sound and what it can offer into these tunes, I’d still be willing to concede that good ol’ Winchester and I are the kind of folks that love our random frequencies and tones more than most. “Married For The Money” has an extremely interesting spot at the very start of the song that I truly wonder how much people would notice…to me, there’s a seriously intense ring of…hmmm…honestly, I’m not sure if it’s feedback from an amp or what causes it, but you can hear it within the first seven seconds and that’ll be the last time you find it. Personally, I don’t mind that kind of stuff…and to me, it’s a large part of what makes this particular song have a really unique opening. Winchester 7 & The Runners never seems to object all that much to having organic happy accidents within their music come shining through, and that could very well be one of’em. As for the song itself…I know I’ve compared this band to the Dandy Warhols in the past and I’m gonna continue to do that with this song here, but crossed with…hmm…let’s say Elvis this time around. “Married For The Money” is equally entertaining as it is insightful if you’re listening closely to the words…it’s a whole lot of fun, but it’ll make you think of what happens when the money runs out too. A solid rhythm section keeps this track kickin’ out the jams in way you’ll truly dig.
“The Sum Of Our Mistakes” wouldn’t be a misstep…but arguably, it’s probably got a bit less in it for the masses out there than the three tracks that occur prior to it on this record…it’s the ‘deep cut,’ as the kids say. You know what I mean…it’s not the single – but big deal…it still supplies a quality listen and is one of those tracks that’s still a solid part of this lineup overall. I liked the thought-provoking nature of this song right from the get-go as they sing “the sum of our mistakes, from cradle to grave” – it made me think about what our lives would be like if we had to keep track of all that stuff and what that list would look like at the very end. Because man, mine would sure as hell be LONG…that much I can tell ya. But I love the concept, even if it makes me self-reflective…on that level, thematically it reminds of how The Yellow Dress released a song called “A Complete List of Fears Ages 5-28 (aprox)” on their album Faint Music Ordinary Light years ago, which still makes me smile. Comprehensive and specific, you gotta love it. Speaking of both outrageous and somewhat glorious levels of feedback though…”The Sum Of Our Mistakes” takes it way further than what you experienced at the beginning of “Married For The Money” – the space between 1:13 – 1:33-ish on this cut might cost this one a little bit. It’s hard to say…I really don’t know how much people would notice it compared to a guy like myself that sits here listening to songs forwards, backwards, and from side to side, shaking them up & down looking for everything that can be commented on. My gut tells me that Winchester 7 & The Runners might be able to avoid having too many folks notice it unless they’re wearing their headphones…but to be truthful, if they are wearing their headphones, they might be sorrier that the did because that is one seriously intense frequency that they’ll find when listening real close. Twenty seconds can be a real long time in that regard. That being said, it ends right about the time my favorite part of this song begins…the breakdown/bridge of this tune might also offer its biggest hooks and catchiest part…I was kind of surprised that they didn’t end up expanding that spot in this song a little bit more for us. Exploit the good stuff y’all, we love that!
I think…hmm…yes…I think that, if I had to pick a single on this record that wasn’t “Her Double Life,” I’d be inclined to take a good long look at “Miss Merry’s Memorium” – this cut stands a great chance of reaching the ears of the masses. The verses have great melody, swagger, and hooks…the spring into the chorus makes an impact, raises the stakes, and delivers a real boldness to the sound that’s irresistible. It’s a track that’s largely reflective and built on nostalgia, but in a way that I feel like people will really connect to and appreciate. It dives right into what the hope, possibility, and potential in life can be like, when they sing: ”In those early days, we dreamed of fortune and fame, parties that raged, lives that were so fabulous…” the kind of things you dream about and work towards as a musician or artist, when the future is still before you, as they insightfully point out in their words here. All-in-all though, I felt like this track came out really strong for Winchester 7 & The Runners…it’s probably that main transition into the chorus that has me feeling that way…you really feel that extra punch into it, and that level of pure confidence can often become a real hook on its own. Great ideas from the words to the music, vocals, structure, you name it, “Miss Merry’s Memorium” has it all goin’ on…and I’m a big fan of alliteration too.
Where am I at with “Your House Of Cards?” Good question! I’m not all that sure that I’m all that sure about anything if I’m being truthful with ya…I can acknowledge the catchiness to it…and I think there’s something here that the masses will have no real problem digging into. For me…as a longtime listener to Winchester 7 & The Runners and an aficionado of their tunes at this point now…I suppose it felt like this might be the track this band could potentially have written in their sleep by comparison to the rest. Like I was saying…it doesn’t make it a bad tune by any stretch of the imagination…but I am wondering if it really furthers their evolution or lineup of this record overall…I suppose that’s where I question it a bit. I like that they keep the consistency in the execution and production up…it all sounds good…maybe not the newest tune of the bunch in the sense that it feels like it borrows a whole lot from music’s history that we’ve already heard to a degree, but I can hear the potential fun it could supply a Friday night with too. Danceable but its traditional definition, you know? Like back when club dance-floors were being packed for Mellencamp or Dire Straits…tunes that would outright confuse modern-day dancers for sure, but that created the atmosphere for their parents to create THEM on those wild nights out back in their day. And let’s be real here…there’s a ton of folks like that (you know who you are) that are still around and can still kick up their heels even…so if that’s you (yes – YOU), then turn this UP & have a good time!
I really dig the sound of the vocals on “Things Will Never Be The Same,” which is technically the final track on the record, though for you REAL fans, there IS a bonus track to follow, so stay tuned. As far as a conclusion to the album is concerned, it works! You’ll find no complaints from me…it’s got a vibrant bounce to it, an appealing energy…the hooks are decent and accessible…I don’t know that it’s going to be the track I’d write home about, but there’s nothing about “Things Will Never Be The Same” that feels incomplete, and the riffs from the ukulele in this track are easily among my favorites on the record. Like I’ve been tellin’ ya all along…Winchester 7 & The Runners and I tend to like a whole lot of the same textures, tones, and frequencies in the music we listen to, and I dig what they choose to amplify more often than not. I’m always objective in terms of how I look at it and my understanding of what the average everyday listener out there might think about something…but for what I personally enjoy, they readily supply a whole lot of audible uniqueness and creativity that you can feel surge with great energy. “Things Will Never Be The Same” is interesting in that regard…for anyone else, it might have been a really simplified Pop/Rock tune, but Winchester 7 & The Runners draw this track out further than that with the innovative approach they take to their instrumentation and the power of their signature sound.
BONUS track for ya on this record…a cover at that…and…annnnnnnnnnd…I think Winchester 7 & The Runners did an absolutely outstanding job on it. In fact…I might even go as far as to say this is my favorite version of the song that I’ve heard to this point…arguably every bit as good as the original if not better, and much better than the handful of covers I’m familiar with. We’re talkin’ about “Bizarre Love Triangle,” which IS an incredibly well-written tune to begin with…but I’m being completely real with ya, this cover knocks it straight outta the park in my opinion. You’ve read the rest of this review…and heck, hopefully you’ve read a few more on these pages of ours – y’all know I pull no punches and I don’t dole out praise where it ain’t warranted…so take that to heart – Winchester 7 & The Runners nailed this take on “Bizarre Love Triangle” and I’m willin’ to throw down into fisticuffs with anyone that would tell ya anything otherwise. Here…I’ll give you an example of what I’m talkin’ about when it comes to my degree of honesty…one of my favorite bands from the 90s took this track on once…Stabbing Westward. That version? Utter garbage. Pure, unfiltered trash – and I freakin’ LOVE just about everything else by that band. But they whiffed big-time on their cover of “Bizarre Love Triangle” and could do well to take some notes from good ol’ Winchester 7 & The Runners who have, at the very least, put out the best version of this song that you’ve heard since the original released by New Order…and again, from my perspective, this is better. I am incredibly impressed with this…I love how they’ve preserved the essence of what made the original great, put their heart & soul into the hooks we all know the words to, and even put a few small twists into it as well with the effects on the vocals past the three-thirty mark, in addition to the stunning tone you’ll find in the music throughout this whole cover of “Bizarre Love Triangle.” Truly – I could go on & on about this…and if you’re anywhere within earshot of me and my playlist turned UP LOUD & PROUD as y’all know I like to keep it…trust me, my love for this cover will be no secret to any of ya, and certainly not to my neighbors that are bound to hear this cut consistently on repeat. Vocally, Winchester 7 & The Runners have the advantage of knowing this song inside and out & “Bizarre Love Triangle” having been around longer than the band has…so they sing it with that level of confidence you’d find in a veteran…it really is one of their best & most complete performances that I’ve personally heard, and I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I am 100% hopelessly addicted to this cover. It’s required listening! Heart Of The Golden Mystics was a great listen to begin with, but this last track pushes it right over the top from good to great…I’ve had a fantastic time listening to their new record.
Find out more about Winchester 7 & The Runners at their official website at: https://winchester7andtherunners.com
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