Last Friday evening at the Mercury Lounge in New York City Wormburner, a Brooklyn band by-way-of Hoboken, NJ, celebrated the launch of their third album, Pleasant Living in Planned Communitites. The new album, which is officially released today, is a barreling hurricane of rock anchored by the impish tones of lead singer Hank Henry.
A cross between the chaotic beer-soaked party sound of The Hold Steady and an ambiguously Irish punk band, Wormburner have created a kinetic mix that is getting people to take notice. The band’s new single “Somewhere Else To Be,” an up-tempo head-bopper with a mosh-pit inducing chorus, is currently in heavy rotation on indie rock radio stations, including Seattle tastemakers KEXP.
Play a high-octane set of rock and roll, the band oscillated between their older in your face punk music and newer, more subtle material, manically racing from 0-30 and leaving the audience breathlessly, ecstatically hanging on.
The new music sounds more nuanced in its arrangement, adding a dark undertone to the band’s raucous mix, with echoes of Interpol or Spoon. Assisted on stage by guest guitarist Sean Eden of Luna, the band’s new sound took on an extra dimension, though by no means has it lost its kick. A high-powered listen, the new album is filled with aggressively pelvis forward rock, which had the crowd at Mercury Lounge jumping.
Though it’s hard not to get caught up in the band’s hurtling sound, if you can parse the forest from the trees, the band’s real forte is their lyrical story telling. Winding narratives with an array of disparate, colorful characters including a modern day, shell-shocked solider and an aging gay hustler, front man Henry paced the stage spouting lyrics over an avalanche of guitars.
With a mop of curly blond hair, he looked like an oversized bar mitzvah boy, aggressively spinning tales and preaching forcefully from the pulpit. However, there is nothing of the novice about Henry, who charismatically led the band with his nasal intoning, that if you close your eyes could easily be mistaken for the vocals of The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle.
Wormburner’s focus on lyrical storytelling makes one call into question the origins of their name, which is, to say the least, uncommon. According to their bio the moniker is a slang baseball term for a fast groundball, yet for those not athletically inclined, it could easily, if mistakenly, be interpreted it in a more literal, violent sense. And the band’s raucous sound only helps to perpetuate an image of mischievous boys burning sluggish insects. In fact, this chaotic, devilish, and child-like abandon is so easily heard on the band’s new record that this definition almost seems more fitting.
Capitalizing on that reckless surrender to the music, the evening’s highlight came when, before closing their set, the band played a scorching rendition of Donovan’s oft-covered The Season of The Witch. Delivered with all the pathos and biting wickedness of the season, as Henry repeatedly cried out, “Oh nooo, must be the season of the witch,” from atop the band’s towering wall of noise, there was definitely magic in the air.
Photos by Patrick J. Eves, Hippie Death Bed Productions