Wakefield released Which Side Are You On?
Rock-n-roll is good for a great many things; growing up generally isn’t among them. Wakefield’s Which Side Are You On? is the sound of a band maturing, fast. Where some bands go on tour, this one went to school.
Title: Which Side Are You On?
Release date: 06/14/05
Buy at: Amazon
Between hearing the Beatles inspired “Come On Baby,” which changes time signatures between the chorus and verses but still manages to be as hooky as a tackle box, or the smart riffs and layered harmonies of “Quietly Complaining,” you’d be forgiven for wondering if this really is the same band that debuted with the buoyant pop-punk of American Made not long ago, in 2003. In a way, it isn’t.
“We wrote most of those songs [on American Made] in 1999 when we were still in high school," says singer/guitarist Ryan Escolopio. “Most of the songs were about high school.”
Ryan Escolopio and J.D Tennyson, the band’s singer and lead guitarist, first teamed up as high school freshman with the addition of Ryan’s brother Aaron, former Good Charlotte drummer, and cousin Mike Schoolden on bass. After years of playing in cover bands and booking their own tours, they had a serious talk to discuss their goals. “We sat down and pretty much said, ‘Alright, we gotta get signed in a year.’ We shook on it” says J.D. “A year and one week later, we were offered a record deal at Atlantic Records.”
The foursome eventually found their way to Arista, releasing American Made. But when an opportunity to start fresh presented itself, says JD, they were ready for a change: “We scratched what we knew and started over with everything. It just felt right for us.” Wakefield now has a home at Jive Records.
The evidence of Wakefield’s medical journal-worthy growth spurt is 2005’s Which Side Are You On? “Quietly Complaining” begins with a gentle arpeggio of a guitar and some plaintive musings on a relationship before abruptly turning the incipient emo sensitivity on its ear with Queen-like guitar flourishes and wry lyrics like “Sunday best/unimpressed/my good suit wasted.” Not to mention harmonies layered like a wedding cake. It could be a lost Jellyfish song, in part because lead singer Andy Sturmer's cohort in production, John Fields, helps frost the (slightly bitter) confection with some "Joining a Fan-club"-esque vocal harmonies. “Only One” is where you’ll here the influence of The Cars. Heavy riffs underscore lyrics about the outcome of the last presidential election on “New Game.” “Without You” tethers its chugging chords to soaring melodies, and its lyrics, a balance of defiance and denial, are as blithe as they are affecting. However, "Around," as Mike states, "brings that flick of the cigarette still smoking kind of vibe." “Come On Baby” takes a page from Sgt. Peppers' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and features the aforementioned time-signature shift: “The verse is somewhere around 142 bpm,” Ryan says, “and the chorus maneuvers to completely different tempo – it was kind of a ‘Let’s see if we can do this’ type thing.” The song also drags 30 year-old power pop conventions into the 21st Century by dropping a jabbering rap in the middle. Even better, it’s an ebullient song about sex.
Wakefield doesn’t worry about their fan base balking at the band’s evolution. “If they’re our fans, they’re going to grow with us,” Aaron says. “A little change, trying to go outside of the boundaries – that’s what we expect of other bands, and we’re fans of music. We couldn’t expect any less of ourselves.”
While Which Side Are You On? is far less comical than the band’s past songs, humor still leavens an apparent grumpiness about romance and relationships. It’s comic relief in more ways than one because it’s proof that not everything about Wakefield has changed: For all the record’s artistic leaps, for all the studied song-craft and growing maturity, it’s clear that opposite sex still messes up these guys as much as it ever did.
“We’re still battling with girls,” says J.D. “We’re still losing the fight.”
"Which Side Are You On?" by Wakefield - release date: 06/14/05..