ity no-hope bands like Namelessnumberheadman. It should be better for groups like ‘em. You should be able to click on the label above and be taken to a website where a splash page proudly proclaims the group’s newest release and you’re forced to scramble to scroll down and avoid the annoyingly loud streaming music that’s about to bust your laptop speakers once and for all. Similarly, you should be able to click below and find plenty of YouTube links to their fascinating live show, where band members somehow make the electronic folk of their recordings come to life. No dice, though.
It’s to be expected, really. There’s not much room in the world for bands like Namelessnumberheadman. We already have a group that aspired to add synthesizers to lonely rock songs, fronted by a cracked voice shaman of modern America. And we all know how that turned out. If there were any justice in the world, we’d get to read a Magnet cover story on how Chuck Whittington bottomed out on drugs and alcohol in the making of Wires Reply and that’s why it took four long years to hear its contents. Pity that the story probably just features a deadening day job, a record label search, and the lack of a good elevator pitch.
But that’s the way it is for Namelessnumberheadman and that’s the way Wires Reply mostly sounds. There are moments of incalculable beauty on Wires, but they’re invariably shot through with the sort of pathos that only comes with a healthy amount of failure. Booming drum machine-assisted choruses are leavened with steel guitar; brass burrow their way in, only to be overpowered by a piano player sitting high in the mix; depressed vocals tend to overshadow everything that going on around them. Hell, “Lesser Fates” says it all, starting as it does with a simple acoustic only to be backed up by a yearning steel guitar and propped up by a moaning vocal by Whittington. Once the piano comes in and leads the group to a wordless harmony that ends the song, you’re both impressed and depressed in equal measure.
Wires Reply may just be Namelessnumberheadman’s best album yet, anyway. None of the aforementioned proclivities are new to the group and they arrange them expertly with pathos, melody, and technology intact. In fact, as far as New Sad Electronic Americana goes, they may just be the best group going. But when your genre’s leading light departs the scene, things become that much harder. And judging by what the group is already facing, they can barely stand much more blocking their way to success.