Release Date: Nov 4, 2016
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
With American Wrestlers’ self-titled debut, Gary McClure seemed to be creating his dream imaginary band. Drum machine in tow, he turned what can often be the crux of a solo musician – that whole bit about being solo - into not only his asset, but a sheer delight to listen to. The obvious next step to follow lo-fi success was to bring that band to life, and explore the oomph that new creative forces can bring.
After St. Louis-based Scotsman Gary McClure made waves in the indie sphere with his lo-fi solo project's eponymous debut American Wrestlers, he scored a record deal with Fat Possum and regrouped, so to speak. The follow-up, Goodbye Terrible Youth, finds American Wrestlers expanded to a four-piece that includes the songwriter's wife, Bridgette Imperial.
Sometimes jarring changes of scenery can do a world of good for artists. Take the case of American Wrestlers’ Gary McClure, for instance. Born in Scotland, he eventually embraced the Manchester music scene (as one half of the shoegaze-inspired Working For a Nuclear Free City), met an American woman (and fellow musician) studying overseas, fell in love and moved to St.
“Still can’t believe you died.” This is how Gary McClure begins his latest record under the American Wrestlers moniker. Last year’s debut as American Wrestlers was a bold and big record hiding underneath the cover of lo-fi. Most of the songs hovered around five minutes as McClure examined a wealth of issues including the brutal death of a homeless man at the hands of the police.
Contrary to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most commonly misconstrued quote, there are in fact second acts in American lives. That goes for American Wrestlers’ lives, too. Trading Manchester for Middle America in the name of love, songwriter Gary McClure found himself in St. Louis, Missouri, a few years ….
From 1999 to 2013, the American Wrestlers front man Gary McClure played guitar in the English shoegaze group Working for a Nuclear Free City. Despite being signed to the relatively small label Melodic Records (which just celebrated its 100th release in 2015), the band had big ideas and an even bigger sound—big enough, in fact, to land them a video game contract with Sony: they wrote “Silent Melody” for Infamous. Their dexterous, almost chameleon-like style stemmed from influences as disparate as Bill Evans and the Grateful Dead, and it managed to be psychedelic without sounding dated or hokey.
When Scottish songwriter Gary McClure – nephew of Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame – released his eponymous American Wrestlers debut LP in the spring of 2015, the home recordings took lo-fi to a new, erm high, or at least a return to the days when home recordings were left only to satiate their creators creative tendencies. Nowadays, releasing your own home-made material is easier than slicing bread and from a quality perspective it doesn’t seem to matter if the finished article sounds like something your kid has just knocked up on a Casio keyboard. This time around McClure has not been whisked away and left all alone.
When you’re 15 years old, the idea that “music can change your life” is fresh and attainable. It’s a virtue that many of us hold onto later in life, but rarely does it feel more exciting than in youth. It can also be a tumultuous time, when the drama of relationships and the imposing world feel like they can crush down on the poor trapper-keeper hearts.
American Wrestlers' Goodbye Terrible Youth tackles the most difficult obstacle for any young, lo-fi, "bedroom pop" act: learning how to make your sound bigger and clearer without sanding off any of the appealingly rough edges. The band, which has expanded from its beginnings as a solo project of frontman Gary McClure, mostly succeeds: "Amazing Grace" is a pleasantly jangly midtempo affair, while "Vote Thatcher" and "Blind Kids," bring some urgency and a louder rock profile to the mix. "Real People" is an effectively evocative acoustic closer.
Lo-fi needn’t mean low ambition. That point was proved in 2014 by American Wrestlers, the bedroom pop pseudonym of US-based Scottish musician Gary McClure, whose self-titled debut explored synthpop, rootsy Americana and soul, all via an eight-track setup in his house. Word-of-mouth buzz followed soon after, along with a record deal with Fat Possum, and now McClure has a few more toys to play with for American Wrestlers’ follow-up.
As we prepare to publish our Year-End lists (hit: it's coming very, very soon), that doesn't mean we'd still ignore our regularly scheduled Quick Takes feature. Carl and I, however, do have to acknowledge that because of the madness that goes behind-the-scenes this time of year, this month's will ….