Review Summary: "It's punk as shit or it's horrible, depending on how you look at it."
With the hesitation to obtain this particular collection of demos upon its launch, I recall with precision the surprise which hit me when the man himself was compelled to approach the stage only to apologise for the lack of copies remaining - that is, before the said material had even been performed. I didn't realise it then, but I do realise it now.
I Hope I Don't Come Across Intense
, as clear from the title, is a series of demos written between 2009-2015, showcasing the raw talents of singer-songwriter (though "[he's] not a singer-songwriter and [he] never... will be") and The Smith Street Band front-man Wil Wagner. Hailing from Melbourne, those engaging with this review require little introduction to the man, for as he stated midst the aforementioned launch, "If you've come here tonight, you probably get it." Likewise, if you understand who he is, "you probably get it."
And such can be said of the list of material - recorded on a phone in backstage rooms with no consistent use of any specific guitar, the result of a somewhat irrelevant five-hour long drive, pressed(") onto tape and handed out to a room of mostly intelligent, drunk, cigarette-smoking, probably vegetarian hipsters with beards and "Smith Street" shirts. But despite the somewhat necessity of this contextualisation of Intense
, pivotal to both the feel and atmosphere surrounding the tape, the project would stand as nothing without the charm of the artist and his sheer song-writing abilities.
From the introduction of the tape with 'Feel All The Feelings', the tone has been set; the mission statement affirms ostensibly simple though at times strong and wordy lyrics and metaphors seamlessly posited over the strumming of acoustic guitar. Wil rarely showcases his guitar-playing skills, though it would in fact deem a disservice to disregard songs such as 'The Way You're Put Together' as he displays some versatility in his playing. As it shifts from a lament of staring down beauty ("London Bridge at sunrise", "Tullamarine, 6:45") through "rose-coloured glasses" or inebriated senses to the revel in the person's outward beauties, so too does the song decelerate in pace with its chorus; the guitar drawls as Wil repeats variations of the same line - "I quite like the way you're put together."
Perhaps moments like these are most fitting to the analysis of the expression at the heart of the tape. For it's rather versatile in its subject matter, ranging from 'It', exploring the repercussions of an abortion as Wil daringly addresses
this unborn fetus and comments on the decision of the mother; to the juxtaposition of God and Love in the aptly titled 'God/Love' so to illuminate a sense of the deep and "unattainable feeling" the narrator continues to seek. Ultimately, however, the whole tape seems to encompass a deep feeling of doubt, pessimism, concentering the implications of depression and the pursuit of happiness - perhaps far from a hedonistic sort of pleasure, but nonetheless a personal sort of search for triumph. With the pretentious perception of these songs as sort of successive vignettes to this theme, it's not difficult to draw some sort of significance from these tracks, all building up to the climax that is 'I Don't Deserve The Sun'. "If these morning moods don't subside, then I'll get institutionalized... tonight", concludes the entire tape, offering an ambiguous sort of hope or even hopelessness - an ambivalent conclusion to a compilation of demos which shouldn't be this cohesive.
But in the end of it all, should it be" Am I looking too deep into it" Is Wil Wagner merely so consistent a character, so honest and genuine a performer, that even a compilation of works spanning almost six years has the ability to constantly resonate wish such ease" It makes little sense, and that's all a part of its intrigue.
Indeed is I Hope I Don't Come Across Intense
punk as ***.