Quality, like you’d expect
Usually, when a person has a famous relative, that phenomenon becomes part of their identity. Instead of being seen as an individual, this person becomes merely reduced to their relationship with the celebrity. Many of these people have still managed to carve out successful careers in their own right, but even then, the public refuses to remove the previous associations.
Luckily in the case of Jason Simon, this is not the case. Though he is the nephew of David Simon, co-creator of The Wire, Simon has largely been defined by his musical talents instead. For the most part, he is known as the lead singer of the psychedelic rock band Dead Meadow. Their first album was released in 2000 on the record label of Joe Lally, the bassist for legendary hardcore band Fugazi, and several more have followed over the last 20 years. In 2010, Simon decided it was time to add some solo music to the mix; and released his debut self-titled album later that year. Two EPs followed later in the decade, but 10 years later Simon has finally released a second LP, A Venerable Wreck.
Since he first released solo music, it’s been apparent that Simon’s solo work has shunned the ambitious progressive rock of Dead Meadow in favor of more minimalist arrangements and country/roots influences. A Venerable Wreck continues this trend, with its cleaner guitar tones, sparser drums and relaxed tempos.
The album’s opener is “The Same Dream,” an ominous shuffle combining bluegrass banjo with tambourine hits and ringing guitar strums. The acoustic ballad “See What It Takes” comes next, which may seem basic at first but adds distant guitar drones in the back. The bouncy “Red Dust” brings bluesy guitar work and a drum set to the fold for the first time. Hints of Simon’s prog roots come back with a synth bass line on the album’s title track, and the Hammond B3 organ makes slow-jamming closer “Without Reason or Right” more memorable than it otherwise would be.
Overall, it’s a solid release. While it’s nothing particularly new or innovative, Simon is obviously capable of writing good songs, and there’s enough on here to make it an entertaining listen.