The Welcome II

If you’ve been following this site, you’ll remember that Gehring Miller and his band The Welcome have been putting out an EP a month since March. This experiment is supposed to run until October, according to Miller. The first release was all R Kelly covers, and each subsequent release has been original material. When he first told me about the plan, I doubted him. It’s hard for most bands to release one EP a year, let alone one a month.

I’ve liked all the previous efforts, even if a couple songs didn’t grab me. Overall they’re all worth checking out. One thing that’s surprised me over the course of the releases is how the band kept each one fresh. Songwriting, as I understand it, tends to run in cycles. As an example, let’s say I write a song about birds. That may lead me to some other aviary -themed songs. While a lot of the material on the band’s releases is connected somehow, it isn’t completely obvious that the records were made so close together.

On the newest EP, II, that freshness seems to be missing. Instead of feeling new and exciting, the songs feel forced. I imagine the band knew that, at some point during this process, this would happen. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Sometimes when you’re working so hard on something, you start to lose the ability to be objective about what you’re doing. These songs are by no means terrible. They’re good. But based on the other EP’s, I know they can be better.

My biggest issue with the album is the singular focus on minutiae. On this EP we have a narrative song about a game of “American Football”, one about the punishment we put on our bodies, the song “Morning” that talks about the ruthlessness of life, and “June She Sings” about the coming of summer.

The first two songs, “Morning” and “American Football,” don’t hit me at all-like they’re non-existent. They kind of feel like retreads of songs that appeared on earlier EP’s. Especially the football song. The second half of the EP is head and shoulders above the first. “June She Sings” is my favorite of this collection. It has a sweet streak of nostalgia for summer days and nights that fills my head with fond memories of my own youth. It also seems to have borrowed it’s guitar riff from Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.”  “Apology To My Body” isn’t going to win The Welcome any songwriting awards, but at least it’s an interesting take on what a song can be about. It’s also the most grown-up sounding of the tracks.

I’m not quite satisfied with The Welcome’s newest EP. I give them credit for cranking these out, though. Less disciplined bands would have given up after two. Like the profundity of Ryan Adams, sometimes you have so much material you just need to get it all out there. It’s doubtful that one person is going to love all of it. The important thing is to keep making music that you’re proud of.

After meeting the band at the Fort Frances concert a couple weeks ago, I can gladly say that they’re all very nice. We certainly have differing views on some things (Bon Iver chief among them), but they’re smart guys, and they seem to get along well. For those reasons, I continue to look forward to each new EP. If I were a manager or agent for the band, I might recommend doing another covers EP, just to take some pressure off.

While I have you here, I thought of some songs to cover:

First, obviously, would be “Follow You Down” by the Gin Blossoms (a whole Gin Blossoms EP would be awesome). “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” by Nine Days might be good, too. Many of you may not be old enough to remember how ridiculously popular these songs were. How about a cover of Tonic’s “If You Could Only See.” Or, and this one is a freaking classic so don’t tell me you don’t know it, Evan and Jaron’s “Crazy For This Girl.”

Enough. I can’t just hand you this record on a silver platter. We’ll hear from the band again toward the end of July with their next installment.