Shadwick Wilde – Unforgivable Things (Self Released, 2010)
Shadwick Wilde is a guitarist for the driving, electric punk rock bands Brassknuckle Boys and Iron Cross, but on this solo debut he’s relaxed the jackhammer tempos to more thoughtful folk strumming, but retained the intensity of his themes. There’s some angry young Dylan here, as well as some of Springsteen’s distress, but Wilde is less poetic (or, obtuse, if you prefer) than the former and less grand (or, grandiose, if you prefer) than the latter. Think of what Nebraska might have sounded like if it was Springsteen’s debut as a self-loathing country-folkie, rather than a respite from the overbearing success of the E Street Band.
Wilde doesn’t contemplate the broader plight of the world, he discovers the intimate realization that a grown-up’s life may suck every bit as much as he imagined in his rock songs. Having nearly drunk himself to death, he writes from inward feelings of depression rather than lashing out at the world in punk anger. It doesn’t always live down to the modified slogan stuck to his guitar, “This machine kills hope,” but it gets pretty dark, and by disc’s end you’ll be looking for some kind of emotional respite. The songs of broken relationships feel desperate, and even the few rays of hope are shaded by an infinite expanse of cloudy days. Anyone who’s been really depressed will know the feelings of helpless self abnegation that Wilde expresses.
The lyrics depict a world without upward momentum, of time spent drifting numbly by bromides that don’t apply, and the will to live getting ever more lean. The murder ballad “Die Alone” is particularly bitter, and though the mood improves momentarily with “Ride All Night,” Shadwick quickly returns to the darkness, undermined by habitual bad choices. His nostalgic moments are drunken reveries rather than wistful remembrances, locking into past failures rather than propelling towards new opportunities. Wilde seems to be in the middle steps of recovery, making a moral inventory, but not yet able to step past his realized shortcomings. It’s a harrowing place to be, loaded with the knowledge of his “unforgivable things” but not a map out. The emotions can be uncomfortably raw at times, but they make for interesting listening.