The Ike Reilly Assassination
We Belong to the Staggering Evening
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2007, Volume 14, #5
Written by John Metzger
Tue May 8, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
The title to We Belong to the Staggering Evening, Ike Reilly’s fourth proper solo outing, evokes a particular mood, a feeling, a tone. It is a bold proclamation that alludes to something that is grandly immense, brimming with confidence, and larger than life. Whether its songs provide the soundtrack for late-night, backyard barbecues or longtime friends crawling through the city in search of the next pub, whether they conjure images of a down-on-his-luck loner who is searching the streets of Mexico for something to mask his pain (Valentine’s Day in Juarez) or the scrappy hotheads who fight their way through When Irish Eyes Are Burning, one thing is certain: These dark portraits have been marinated in alcohol, and they have been baked under the intense heat of the summer sun.
Shrugging off the disengaged apathy that toppled much of his previous effort Junkie Faithful, Reilly fills We Belong to the Staggering Evening with gritty realism, and the hard-nosed force with which he drives his band is what brings his songs to life. As has been the case with all of his best work — not the least of which was his stellar debut Salesmen & Racists — the outing sounds as if it sprang from a whiskey-soaked session in which Bob Dylan and Steve Earle commingled with The Replacements and The Pogues. Its melodies are easy to grasp, but not leaving anything to chance, Reilly throttles them into submission. Energetic, unflinching, unabashed, and alive, this is the way that rock ’n‘ roll was meant to be heard.
The hand claps and clattering guitars that kick off 8 More Days Till the 4th of July briefly flash with a touch of U2’s Desire — that is, until Reilly unleashes a stampeding refrain that mockingly dares religion to save him, despite the fact that he has no intention of seeking forgiveness for his sins. Later, against I Hear the Train’s violently churning backdrop, he slams the door on his spiritual awakening by defiantly declaring, "fuck the train." With equal aplomb, Reilly sideswipes America’s social and political climates in Fish Plant Uprising, It’s Hard to Make Love to an American, and Let’s Get Friendly, and just when it appears as if he has played every trick in his book, he allows a Beach Boys-style motif to arise from within the punk-fueled ’50s-rock of You’re So Plain.
Each song on We Belong to the Staggering Evening is an anthem for the disenchanted and the disaffected, but rather than try to heal open wounds or provide any kind of empathy, Reilly’s solution is simply to use sex, drugs, and good old-fashioned rock ’n‘ roll to numb the pain. Instead of searching for excuses, he embraces the murky darkness of his characters’ lives, and by allowing his music to wash away their tensions, he provides all of the salvation that they ever are likely to want or need.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box