I’ve said this a lot recently and I’ll likely say it more again in the future: most new rock bands I hear fall into one of two camps. Either a modern sound fuelled by the same half-dozen or so established acts leading to many new bands to sound similar with only the crème de la crème worthy of note. Or you get a retro vibe in the style of the sixties or seventies. Thankfully, the well is less dry for the latter.
MaidaVale is this latter sound. No matter how often I hear these newcomers producing a retro sound, there’s always a fresh spin, drawing on different influences. Or at the very least, different elements from the same influences. Tales of the Wicked West doesn’t just sound like it’s part of the old school, it feels like it. Bluesy, psychedelic and gritty, it’s powered by fuzzy and stomping rock with the aforementioned overtones. It’s a consistent sound throughout the entire album from the first second to the last.
Hard-hitting lyrics are insightful and tracks like “Dirty War” (with its off-kilter intro in the form of previous track, the trippy “Truth-Lies”) are spat at the listener with venom. Meanwhile “Restless Wanderer” takes a look at wanderlust in the physical world whilst trying to figure out where an individual can fit into the world at large.
There’s also an element of funk with “Find What You Love and Let it Kill You” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. With the massive bass grooves on offer and its ebbs and flows, the pair of songs both transform from their respective rough midpoints, turning into very different creatures.
Perhaps the standout track comes right at the end, the almost eleven minute epic “Heaven and Earth”. Completely instrumental, proggy whilst holding onto a core idea throughout the song; it’s calm and melancholic, possessing an almost ethereal quality. At no point do you yearn for a voice, letting the music take you on its unique journey not found elsewhere on the record.
Much like other bands of their ilk, MaidaVale have created a record out of time. Drawing on different influences, it seems Sweden is the place to go for a retro vibe. Tales of the Wicked West, with its fuzzy old-school guitar tones, scratching at the listener’s ear, is a perfect example of overhauling an older sound and moulding it into something new and fresh.
Header image by Gianluca La Bruna
Tales of the Wicked West is out now