July 14, 2024

Wreckless Eric – Construction, Time & Demolition – a review


The perpetual underdog, Wreckless Eric defies the proverbial saying by actually being quite bitter. Having produced one of the best songs of the seventies, Whole Wide World, the rest of his career has been lived in that shadow. I’ve had a consistent soft spot for his down to earth and often sarcastic songs, as well as his love for the tropes of early sixties pop music, all of which are present here. I own more Wreckless albums than you’d expect, given his grating and adenoidal voice and acerbic attitude (I remember heckling him supporting The Magic Band once, as he moaned on and on about an ex-school teacher–I mean, you have to grow up and move on at some point!). He always had a thing about girly backing choruses and the big pop moment and that pleases me on the new album. It is nicely produced and that clashes nicely with some of the more bitter song content. He may have much to be bitter about; he once had to headline a pub gig after I’d performed a poetry slot to open. Must have been a hard audience to get back on side…

He is still harping back to past annoyances–the opener criticises the Humber Bridge, which opened when he was a boy. Later on he makes sure we understand the impossibility of owning anything, since our lives run out moment by moment till they are all gone (shades of his earlier song, The Final Taxi (that’s a hearse). It comes over as a cynical version of Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime.

Wreckless Eric was one of the roster of pub-rock/punk-ish acts on Stiff, alongside Ian Dury, Jona Lewie, etc. He was presented as the runt of the litter, small, often drunk, a bit snappy. Whether he really was like that, who knows, but a stage mantle descended on him and is still the core of his material. Not that he doesn’t know and acknowledge it in songs like The World Revolved Around Me. And he still loves making music; bashing out the four-four beat with Flash. The contrast with big production numbers like They Don’t Mean No Harm is pleasing. The latter could have come from his early The Wonderful World Of… album–bitter, bolshy and singalongable. It’s a biting as his early monster; Take The Cash (K.A.S.H.). Wow and Flutter sounds like a comic grumble about over-earnest fans (“how do you make your records sound like your records sound to me?”) and Forget Who You Are is a mini-epic. 40 Years is a slice of autobiography, carrying the anger of a twenty-something’s regrets about being taken in by the avaricious thieves of the music industry.

As we approach the end of the album, Unnatural Act boasts a wonderful chorus, while he hymns the pointlessness of the human race. “Enough of this shit, enough of this shit. When are we gonna get, enough of this shit”. Quintessentially English and punk in the deepest senses of the word, this has rekindled my interest in Mr Goulden.

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