Cleverly named to sound like a drawled "the ones", Nashvillian power trio The Wans packs a mighty rock punch on its six song "Run Baby Run" EP. From an unknown band discovered halfway through an indie label's PR subsidiary, to a wrecking ball of an act working with one of contemporary music's heaviest hitting producers, the band polishes hard rock into a memorable, infectious gem well within the space of several short releases.
"Run Baby Run" has an energetic, enthusiastic overall sound, with an evolved, modern twist on classic rock, grunge, and power pop. The EP sears hard rock with a sleazy, sexy overtone. The band sounds tight, well-rehearsed, and has a dynamic, fuller sound, thicker then what would be expected from a trio. The EP's mix is rich, full, and saturated. The songs are nicely sequenced, for an even flow and dynamic. With the bulk of the songs in an intense, go-for-broke hard rock vein, not a lot of opportunities arise for volume or mood shifts.
These tunes have a more hard rock bent then the debut, and lean a little more a little more on sharp musicianship, orchestration, and composition. That said, the band does wear its influences on its sleeves, which is pleasant and refreshing. Perhaps they just want to throw fans of their forefather bands a musical bone or two.
A winning formula honed and perfected by the early 2000s shines brightly: a guitar-driven band with a dextrous male vocalist lays on the octave fuzz heavy and thick, adding in a thick bass guitar low end to midtempo songs. The Wans knows it, and sure aren't being left out of this gala. Simon Kerr's guitar overdubs are not obvious; the end result is a dual guitar sound from a lone wolf guitarist. The burly bass lines from Thomas Bragg, and interesting fills coupled to the steady groove from Mark Petaccia only add to the enjoyment. The tunes have a kinetic, inviting crunch, similar to both party anthems from southern rock, or the organic, loose groove from garage rock and first wave 'transition from rock to punk' bands like The Clash. Songs remind a listener also of second generation grunge: they've got the quirk and the grit, but with fine-tuned musicality and potent chops. There's also a hefty dose of testosterone fueled confidence, and alcohol driven fun, where self-deprecation, doubt, and darkness once dwelled.
Produced, engineered, and mixed by four-time Grammy winner Vance Powell, "Run Baby Run" channels a lot of the fast grab, hard hitting appeal that bands like breakout success Royal Blood, gothic blues merchant The Dead Weather, or heavy-psychedelic Turbowolf also bring to the table: an intensity of sound and a dirty, unmistakable zest. Powell's monster Nashville mixes tend to strike a great balance between drum punch, guitar crunch, and vocal work: no instrument dominates the top layer overlong. Despite all the fuzz, crispness and midrange is preserved across the board. This is most obvious when a fuzzy part suddenly becomes clear. Kerr's vocals are very well performed, adept and versatile. His voice stays clear and emphatic, without being out front too much, or ever buried. Instruments shift directionally as needed - Powell hears the value of offering something besides a 'front and center' classic rock mix to yet another rock band.
The band hasn't sacrificed its prodigious chops for the simpler delivery so typical in modern rock. Unafraid to introduce odd time or syncopation, it thrusts listeners right into the party groove with opener "Run Baby Run" and continue the quirky, engaging, hip-swaying mode with "Seeing Red". After a daring, discordant opening note, the uptempo grab slows a little for the quickly-passing "Who Are You Now", a melodic, contemporary hard rock tune with pleasing, well-performed background vocal harmonies. Fuzz fades in "Not So Pretty", a compelling, kinetic, engaging tune. Like the others, this song has a charismatic, sexually charged theme. Verses are relaxed tempo, syncopated, and vocal forward. Sonically colorful with razor sharp hooks, "Not So Pretty" ought to be a ladykiller in the band's live set. "Nail Me" relies on it's strong melody and vocal delivery. It's a little more plaintive, a little more melancholy, and sequenced after a whopper like "Not So Pretty", it serves as an emotionally levelling palate cleanser. On the band's debut album, "He Said, She Said", the song "What I'm Feeling" bears uncanny resemblance to (in)famed party rock band Queens of the Stone Age's "First It Giveth". On "Run Baby Run", The Wans repeat that not-so-subtle nod to the influencers with EP closer "ABCD" and it's unmistakable "Little Sister" channeling vibes.
"Run Baby Run" typifies the album's direction: "Let's get carried away. Love is coming my way..." Sex still sells: the lyrics speak to people who want to 'get it on' - singles, live music crowds, party-goers, and couples still infatuated. Appealing to a wide range of harder rock listeners, a fan of bands from The Beatles, "Bleach" era Nirvana, Chris Cornell, and more will be well entertained by "Run Baby Run".
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