Most of today's music, of course, is based on radio-ready hit singles. Long gone are the adventurous days when FM radio would play extended or multiple cuts based on thematic continuity. So what to make of Wyckham Porteous' "sexanddrinking," very much a work that works best as a whole?
First let's clear the air . . . this isn't a blues disc. But it's bluesy enough, rootsy enough (for the most part) to appeal to many an open-minded blues fan. And it's good. Very good. So if you're willing to stretch a bit, you may find much to like.
Wyckham, who makes his home in Vancouver, wrote most of the material while in Amsterdam, which would explain the curiously 'European' feel to much of it. Although most tunes would fall musically into an "American Heartland" category, others, including the opening title track with it's spoken refrain, are more adventurous. And while several cuts do indeed stand well enough on their own, there's a thread that runs through the work as a whole, a recurring theme of sexual experience and experimentation (and all the emotional baggage that goes with it), that demands the space of an entire disc; smaller doses simply don't do it justice.
Befitting the confusing, fractured times we live in, Wykham's music moves from the quietly confessional to the racous and raunchy. Were this a lesser work, I'd say the jarring juxtapositions spoil the mood. But again, "sexanddrinking" isn't about mood, unless it's the collective mood of the age.
Supporting documents tell the tale of "sexanddrinking's" creation as a series of loose and rather chaotic sessions fueled by copious quantities of wine and . . . well, other substances, with the songs taking shape along the way, often in entirely unexpected ways. Yet don't expect half-baked or incomplete fragments; ragged it may be, but this is clearly a mature and profoundly thoughtful work, the output, if you will, of an artist for whom the act of creation seems as necessary as breathing itself. All artists necessarily offer something of themselves through their work, but Wyckham bravely bares his soul with an exceptional degree of unabashed abandon. For all their musical merit, I simply can't see others covering his songs. His concerns are very much of the world we live in, but there's something so personal, so unique in his approach and presentation that his material seems unmistakeably his and his alone.
Thankfully, Wyckham's delivery leaves nothing to be desired; framed by jangly guitars, his dusky voice reveals a hint of world-weariness that never descends to the jaded or cynical. Somehow Wyckham remains a guarded optimist at heart.
Sound a bit confusing? Well, "sexanddrinking" is like that, a bit messy, a bit rough around the edges . . . but if it falls short of greatness, it's only because Wyckham's vision is so personal. If one accepts the honesty and integrity of an artist's revelation as the critical criteria, though, this is a work approaching the sublime.
My advice? Take a chance. You won't wanna play it every day, but each time you do you'll be the better for it.
Cordova Bay Records
5159 Beckton Road, Victoria, B.C., Canada V8Y 2C2
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