Tweaker- 2 a.m. wakeup call (iMusic)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. ruby (featuring will oldham)
2. cauterized
3. worse than yesterday (featuring mellowdrone)
4. truth is (featuring robert smith)
5. remorseless
6. pure genius (featuring david sylvian)
7. it's still happening (featuring hamilton leithauser)
8. 2 a.m.
9. movement of fear
10. sleepwalking away (featuring nick young)
11. the house I grew up in
12. crude sunlight (featuring jennifer charles)

Tweaker's second full-length, 2 a.m. wakeup call arrives sounding like the soundtrack for a moist summer night in some mythical city. As with their debut, The Attraction To All Things Uncertain, ex-Nine Inch Nails member Chris Vrenna has retained the help of such notable vocalists as Robert Smith from the Cure, David Sylvian (whose also performed the track Linoleum, the highlight from the debut), Jennifer Charles from Elysian Fields and Will Oldham. This time it's Oldham's track Ruby that is standout. His voice seems uncertain and foreboding (and subtly disturbed) as it drifts between tsunamis of guitar. It is a good opening track in that it sets the tone both lyrically ("I must try and bring a conscious end to night and hope that dreams begin to fall") and musically for what will inevitably be a dark and expansive sonic landscape. Worse Than Yesterday follows, and recalls recent Bowie tracks with the low register vocals (care of Mellowdrone) drifting above lovely lines like "I love the smell of arbitrary love."

Certainly the track likely to get the most attention is Truth Is, as it features the seminal Robert Smith on vocals. With half the new artists fronting vocalists that sound like Smith clones, it's almost odd to hear the real deal. Truth Is arrives as something of a disappointment, with Smith singing without emotion over a simple drum and synth beat. Though fitting in the context of the album, it's one of the least memorable tracks on the disc.

Sylvian's track Pure Genius is again strong, but not as strong as Linoleum. As one of the most pure and recognizable voices in contemporary music, it's virtually impossible to go wrong with Sylvian. Amidst a bevy of sonic effects and muted synthesizer, Sylvian tight vocals find a hypnotic rhythm in a track that is at once jazzy, postmodern and trip-hoppy.

The closing track on the disc is Crude Sunlight, sung by Elysian Fields vocalist Jennifer Charles. Sounding like a track played through a busted old speaker, Charles' voice arrives erotic and sultry, as if sung amidst an epic sex and drug haze. It is at once the most disturbing and most interesting track on the disc, and serves as a nice denouement to a dizzying and consuming album.

On 2 a.m. Wakeup Call, Vrenna has taken an element from his time with Nine Inch Nails and integrated it seamlessly into the fabric of Tweaker. It has actually been there on every track on each of his discs. It's difficult to put a finger on what exactly this is, other than there is a sense of something impending on each track. The elements are usually subtle, coming in the form of rising electronics and subtle and hypnotic beats. The instrumentation is more complex on Wakeup Call, with a mélange of instruments (including but not limited to acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, piano and full-on metal guitar) riding above an electronic pulse. This heightened drama forces the listener deeper into the music, and provides a unique context for these dark, often cinematic tracks. Like all great albums, it cannot be taken song by song, but as the sum of its collective effect. In that sense, 2 a.m. Wakeup Call is a rousing success, eliciting a sense of disturbing insomnia into the engaged listener, and rewarding him with a uniquely cohesive musical experience.


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