Melbournian troubadour Wilding blew us away last year with his concept album ‘The Death Of Foley’s Mall’ – one of the best Antipodean releases of 2020 in my humble opinion – and for many, well, let’s be honest, for me – it was the first taste of Justin Wilding Stokes’s incomparable songwriting skills. The thing is, Wilder did not emerge like a butterfly from a cocoon last year: he had previous form. Recognising this, Half A Cow Records has persuaded Wilder to introduce the world to his past endeavours in a career-encompassing album ‘Hello…My Name is Wilding’.
This compilation gathers material over ten years, adds a few choice tracks from 2020’s ‘The Death of Foley’s Mall’, and pops in a new track ‘Close Your Eyes’. And what a pleasure it is to meet the Wilder of the past, present and future.
The overarching collection is a seamless whole – there is no demarcation between young and old and no dip in quality. The golden thread that binds these tracks is Wilding’s wistful, fey composition style that sparkles with wit and melody and a touch of melancholia.
Opening track ‘Missing Her’ is jaunty pop tune with horns ablazing, wry observations and a romping style redolent of the fifties. If there is a influence, it is a psychedelic era surreal Beatles meeting the grounded with and poise of The Kinks (see ‘Pale Blue Eyes’).
‘You Never Looked So Beautiful As Now’ is purely cinematic: widen open and shining blue tinged with a hint of melancholy. There is almost a hint of show tunes in the indelible nursery room melodies.
And when Wilding enters ballad territory as with ‘Carry Me Over’, he does it with splendour and poise: an aching beauty to its sweeping scope.
‘The World Will End Today’ is frightening prescient, singing as its does about a virus concocted in a laboratory preceding the decline of civilisation and delivered in a Marc Bolan-style reverberated disassociated style with a story about the need to escape the planet.
Packed in the cornucopia of jingle pop delights are a few familiar tracks – the indomitable ‘Swipe Right’, reviewed by me last year in which I wrote it is a highly enjoyable marriage of pure pop bounce mixed with an intelligent and off-kilter lyrics.
Swirling fairground keyboards and chunky guitars underpin Wildings’s enigmatic vocals that recalls the verbal dexterity and indie pop sensibility of bands like the Super Furry Animals (members of whom Stokes has played with in the past) , XTC, UK Squeeze and the Arctic Monkeys, all over a sixties infused air.
‘Losing Teeth’ makes an appearance – another delightful piece of whimsy – and typical of the underlyimng compassion and kindness that seeps through the tracks.
Ending the twenty tracks is new track, ‘Close Your Eyes’, an anthemic blast – jangling indie pop that is bright and poppy.
This is an absolutely marvellous and endearing collection of pop classics imbued with humour and compassion. And jolly good value when you consider every song could be a single. The decision to collect these songs together is a work of genius: they are too good to have been left on the shelf and deserve to be put on display and given the whiff of sunshine and oxygen to infect us with joy.
Go and buy today: it’s Bandcamp Friday so from midnight US Pacific time all the proceeds go to the artist.