Rock-Punk Veteran Covers Rock History
Chris Wollard has had an expansive collection of musical output over the last two decades. He and Chuck Ragan, a successful solo artist in his own right, co-fronted rock-punk outfit Hot Water Music, as well as acoustic side project Rumbleseat. Then, when Ragan left the band, the spinoff group The Draft was formed with the remaining members. Wollard has also participated in and co-written a variety of other projects. With over a dozen studio albums, countless EPs, and whatever else might be out there, no one can say he has been idle.
Canyons is the second album by his newest project Chris Wollard and the Ship Thieves. “Dream in My Head” kicks off the album with a very familiar classic rock riff, carrying a song that could live very comfortably aside ’70s rock à la Alice Cooper or Thin Lizzy. Guitars bend and drums pound out urgently on “Poison Friends” while Wollard shouts, “It’s hard to resist.” “Runaway Train” chugs along with more rock and roll fury, joining the long list of train songs that sound like trains. “Zyzoutta” could very well be a Husker Du song circa 1985. “Heavy Rolling Thunder,” “Never Have Time” and “Modern Faith” are ’90s pop rock, sounding almost like the Gin Blossoms in their melody and guitar phrasing. “Lonely Days” is a hand-clapping acoustic song, which seems to be the type of music that best supports Wollard’s low grumble. Guitar, bass, and organ create a layer of sound on “Sick Sick Love,” essentially a blues number. “Crawl” informs us “the big mistake is just starting over, everything the same. What a boring future, always learning to crawl,” which can’t help but make you think of Wollard suffering the pains of every new project he starts.
With the Ship Thieves, Wollard seems to pay attention to rock history in a way that Hot Water Music never did. The guitars are warmer and arrangements more traditional. This makes the album a bit more timeless, but also a little generalized. However, this is much more consistent than the band’s self-titled debut, and is a very welcome addition to Chris Wollard’s ever-growing body of work.