Carolina Liar - Coming To Terms
Poor Chad Wolf and his band are in a bad way. And isn’t it great?
The cover of Los Angeles based Carolina Liar's debut album Coming To Terms shows a comfy chair in the middle of the elements. An appropriate image, for these seemingly light and poppy tunes are riddled with anxiety, uncertainty and angst.
The album opens with the edgy and unsettling ‘I’m Not Over’. “I once had a grip on everything, it’s easier to let go” laments lead singer Chad Wolf. In fact poor Chad seems to be falling apart at the seams as song after song is a plea for help, guidance and for someone else to please solve all his problems.
‘Coming to Terms’ beautifully illustrates the insecurities these songs describe. Though the protagonist may claim “I’m coming to terms, I’m starting to learn”, the line “everyone knows you’re better than me” belies that brief essay at optimism. Meanwhile the mid-tempo rock-pop accompaniment keeps the tune from descending into morose self-indulgence.
The band lose the plot a bit with the underwhelming ‘Last Night’ which sounds like it was added as an after thought. However they soon pick it up again, and our Chad and all his glorious insecurities find voice in the album’s gem ‘Show Me What I’m Looking For’: “Save me, I’m lost….I’ll pay any cost, save me from being confused.” This could be the mantra for the credit crunch nation. Once again the uplifting music, Wolf’s straightforward delivery and lush backing vocals add a glimmer of hope to a song pleading for help.
The lush ‘Simple Life’, with its folky guitar strumming and Wolf’s upfront vocals is another stand out track. A lament to the daily grind and all its drudgery.
“I never got it right…I never see things through….” So begins the sad ‘All That Sh** Is Gone’, in which Wolf tries to convince us that all his worries are behind him. But when it ends with the troubling line “I never got it right, I always carried the weight for you” there is the fear that maybe he still has a way to go. The verses are carried along by tetchy drumming and subtle piano while the chorus breaks into a euphoric full band blast but with just the hint of uncertainly that cruelly taunts the song’s attempted optimism.
The upbeat ‘California Bound’ is about just packing it in and moving on to pastures new and “out of this dirty town”. The Springsteen-esque opening begins cheerfully enough and the lyrics ride the jubilant music like a surfboard on the waves.
Throughout the album Wolf is always asking for something; help, answers, advice, affirmation, love, and what keeps it all from getting really annoying is the fact that he is only asking what each and everyone of us asks every day, and he does it in such an uplifting and endearing way and you feel a massive group hug coming on by the end of it.
The break up song ‘Done Stealin'’ begins with a series of questions, all rhetorical, as Wolf seems to have actually decided on something himself, to leave the one he loves for the good of both of them “…I have to do the right thing and give you back, cos I’m done stealin'”
‘Something To Die For’ starts off with scratchy guitar like the dark and persistent thoughts buzzing in Wolf's mind. In ‘Beautiful World’ he can barely get out of bed, while in the stringent ‘Better Alone’ Wolf turns the tables, telling another, maybe his own reflection, that all these ponderous ponderings are not where it’s at; “You’ve become so bitter,” he accuses his friend, “you think you’re better alone”.
But maybe the point has finally got through, and the catharsis has come at last. The beautiful and uplifting ‘When You Are Near’ ends our hero’s journey into self discovery on a happy note with Wolf finding solace at last; “I can’t see anything in the dark, but then your reflection brings all it’s own light” he croons.
The album’s dark subject matter would descend into grating navel-gazing in less skillful hands, but the Wolf's clever lyrics coupled with the band's buyout music is both edgy and celebratory. And immensely satisfying. Re-issued after a low-key release last year, aside from one clunker this is one hell of a debut and sure a sign of great things to come from this exciting band.