[Available Digitally, on CD and Vinyl at https://thewheelworkers.bandcamp.com/album/citizens]
When I listened to The Wheel Workers' "Past to Present" it became one of my favorite albums almost instantly. "Citizens" is wasting no time getting stuck in my head just as easily. I've been listening to this album constantly because as catchy as it may seem on the surface, underneath are a lot of lyrics that have to do with corporate greed and people being seen as something other than human. I've always wanted to write songs about depressing issues with a pop feel to them because I just imagine all of these kids bopping around with smiles on their faces singing about how life sucks and it will only get worse, but you know, my lack of time, desire and drive have left me without doing that, though I do feel The Wheel Workers have helped some of that in the sense that these lyrics don't really fit the sound in the traditional sense. I like to think of it as the musical styling of Tegan and Sara, for example, with the lyrics and mindset of Rage Against the Machine. And, yes, T&S doing a RATM covers album would be most excellent.
"Citizens" opens with a song that has a sort of rockabilly vibe to it for me, as it sounds like Bullets & Octane without the metal. There are keys in it as well, which remind me of The Doors, but by the second song we switch over into a more robotic version of something out of the 1980's. Not quite "Weird Science" or Oingo Boingo, but certainly along those lines. Vocally, there are hints of Blue October throughout, but once the songs seem to settle in by the third and fourth they take a turn into something between Piebald, Death Cab For Cutie and even Ultimate Fakebook on some levels. With space laser whirrs there are moments of prog-rock and even some fuzz as the key remain steady. The last song has an almost punk/thrash feel to it, as it is tearing down the walls, and though the words are sung of "Bye-bye now" (ala Weezer's "Butterfly" via 'Pinkerton'), my three year assures me that they will come back.
Musically, it is impossible to listen to this album through without being able to find something to like in it. Even the most jaded of critics has to admit at some point there is a song that they can find stuck in their head on here. (If not, then maybe it is time to hang up the proverbial typewriter). Lyrically, there just seems to be so much to talk about that I feel like everyone else might be writing about these sort of protest songs or "songs with a purpose", you know, as light and fun as the music itself might the lyrics certainly do take on a heavier weight. But can I just say that my favorite lyrics within this whole album (and there are so many to choose from) is simply "I hate your favorite band / they're so fucking terrible". I've just known far too many peope- and still do for that matter- who I just have so much respect for and just love for so many reasons, but then they begin to get all excited over a certain band and you just think, "Really?"
I also have to admit that in my years spent writing about music, I have met and interviewed more than my fair share of artists and it's always kind of a shock to me still when you have that one guy and you love that album that his band just put out, and then when you talk to him he'll tell you, "Yeah, I really love _____" and your jaw just drops to the floor, like, what? Should I still respect this guy? Should I still value his opinions? Should I still listen to his music? But if I found out that everyone in The Wheel Workers were huge fans of some band I couldn't stand I couldn't hold it against them because this album is still just one of the best I've heard this year and in quite a few years actually. So I think what I like most about that quote as well is just that instead of kind of isolating each other because of our differences just learning to accept them and still be able to get along or at least co-exist peacefully. Because if we all liked (and didn't like) the same things life would become pretty boring.
This is actually the third album from The Wheel Workers (their first is one I actually didn't know about until now, but it is now in my queue to listen to for sure) and in the tradition of those great writers who came before me I do have to recognize that your current work must be better than your previous or else why create it and, yes, The Wheel Workers have outdone themselves here. And as with all the great bands who I listen to multiple albums of and enjoy just the same, I don't see the two albums I've reviewed of The Wheel Workers as being better or worse in the traditional sense (That is to say, "Past and Present" isn't a 7 out of 10 and then "Citizens" is a 9 out of 10" and not just because I think number scales are stupid) but rather as two different pieces of music that are really without compare and just so great on their own. If you're not playing this one right now and having fun with the serious then it's truly your loss because if this was a record it'd already be worn out for how many times I've listened to it.