Wild Cub is this generation’s defining indie band. Not just in their pure indie rock sound, but also in pure indie trajectory. The band is based out of Portland, which is the “indiest” city imaginable. They released an album to zero acclaim in 2013 before having their single Thunder Clatter gain some relevancy due to being used in a phone commercial, both extremely indie things to do. Then they didn’t make anything for four years and lost any sort of place they had in the popular consciousness, another super indie move. Finally, they came back in 2017 with an album that perfectly hits one note again and again; the practice of doing something obscure to perfection without press is the indie dream.
Unfortunately for them, they did not count on someone indier in every conceivable way from reviewing their album. Pungry wins another battle of irrelevancy as even the least viewed tracks off of Closer have more plays than my site has total hits.
Honestly, I am sad that Wild Cub aren’t more popular. As I said, their new album, Closer (which does NOT contain a cover of that horrid Chainsmokers song, stop asking), is indie rock polished to perfection. That perfection does come with a price. Whereas the band’s first album, Youth, was longer and had more tracks, the first album also had variety in sound. Closer is a collection of 11 high-energy supernovas. It’s only 40 minutes, but the sheer youthfulness and naivety of the album makes it exhausting to listen to. It’s the kind of album I asked to be made 3 years ago.
Basically, what I’m saying is that you have to be young to stand listening to this album. Everything about it is too bright, too perfect. Like looking at someone’s unnaturally reflective white teeth, Closer is objectively a great thing, but dang it is hard to stand at times. Don’t get me wrong, I like the album a lot. It might even be my choice for album of the year. Each track is awesome… it’s just the collection of these 11 together is less than the sum of its parts. There needed to be a song like Streetlights or Drive that sounded different to help the tracks stand out. As it stands, each song is as good as another. Kids in families of 11 children or more probably have similarly tough times being individuals like these tracks do. I’ll try to give unique thoughts on each, but… gonna be hard.
The album starts off with Magic. Honestly though the song names could be rearranged for the most part without anyone noticing. That’s because each track basically uses the same language. Magic, for instance, has reference a plenty to songs in the band’s past (“distant thunder” = Thunder Clatter, “shape” = Shapeless, “color” = …Colour) and to songs on the album (“true words are fire” = fire). In literature, we say that authors who come full circle in material are geniuses. In music, audiences seem less forgiving. But, as I’ve said, I feel like Wild Cub absolutely captures everything that embodies indie rock, and this recycling of lyrics feels very on key for indie rock. So it’s good. Oh, and I like the upbeat song of Magic.
I Fall Over is my pick for best song off the album. The vocal hook captured me immediately, and the rhythm of the chorus is just off enough to stand out from the rest of the similarly cathartic anthems on the album.
Speak was the second single off the album, and the first to really get me excited. I don’t know what to say. The choice of instruments is perfect. The chords used are perfect. The lyrics are nonsensical but easy to sing along to, so they’re perfect. And the video captures the perfect mood for this song to be playing: screaming it down a freeway at night.
Clicks’ hook sounds suspiciously like I Fall Over but has the disconnected optimism of Speak. Also, whenever the chorus starts, I think of the song “Over My Head” by The Fray. Once again, I’m unsure of a song’s title. There’s nothing to do with clicks in anyway in this song. Did someone in Wild Cub wildly misinterpret SEO? Cause naming your song “clicks” does not actually get you more clicks.
Wait also reminds me of a popular song I’m not too fond of. This time, it’s Imagine Dragon’s “Demons” that the band evokes. Of course, it’s done by a band I like, so it sounds good. Wait is the uniquest track on the album. The only ballad. String-focused. Keegan’s voice sounds awful at times. All in all, it’s memorable. But is that a good thing? It still sounds good, so… yes.
Somewhere was the album’s first single. The intro reminds me heavily of Headlights by Morning Parade, another perfect indie rock band. It’s also another memorable track off the album because it’s got a horn section. It fits well. But again, where on earth did the band get the title “Somewhere” from?
Mirror is your classic indie rock song that sounds so bright yet is so depressing on true reflection. That’s a pun. Please laugh. Now that you’ve laughed, enjoy the song! Not With You is a return to the speed and frenzy of the other tracks. The “bass” synth in the background is really cool sounding. And Keegan sounds super urgent in his delivery, so it’s great. It all fits together in this tragic tale of a song.
Fire’s intro also sounds like another popular song, but I can’t place it this time. I’ve really ran out of stuff to say here. It’s another really good indie rock song! Why are you reading this still? Why am I being mean to my most dedicated fan by calling you out? Both are questions I simply cannot answer.
Rain breaks out the steel drums for a slow intro before getting back into an upbeat groove when the song “truly” starts. For some reason, the way this bass sounds makes me think of Haim’s bassist playing on SNL with all her “bass face”. Don’t ask. Anyway, it’s another fun song that actually is kind of tragic when you read the lyrics. Classic Wild Cub. The album ends with Go. And guess what? It’s fun and upbeat. It does have a memorable ending with three guys yelling “go go go” before the last chorus comes in. I like it a lot.
On reflection, the lyrics of this album paint some sort of narrative of love and loss, but each song is so fun that I just turn my brain off and enjoy the sound. Sorry, Wild Cub. You guys are too good at crafting mindlessly good sounding songs that I can’t analyze your stuff at all. I really hope you all make another album before four more years pass. I promise to pay more attention and respect to your lyrics then.