To Go Home
To Go Home is the stop-gap between M. Ward’s last full-length, Post-War, and his next prolific release. The EP is bookended with its two strongest tracks. The titular “To Go Home,” a Daniel Johnston cover, burns as brightly as ’70s Springsteen. Major chords abound and the uplift they create in the midst of the clattering stutter-step of Ward’s backing band drives the song with an almost intensely fanatical enthusiasm. The closer, “Headed For a Fall,” written by Jimmie Dale Gilmore is similarly epic –with chorus vocals from Neko Case and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, along with a rager of a guitar solo from Wilco’s Nels Cline– and acts as the emotional fall-out to the opener’s affirmation of life.
The two tracks that make up the meat of the the EP, “Cosmopolitan Pap” and “Human Punching Bag,” are both Ward originals and feel sadly flat, or unfinished in the shadow of the covers. The former has a nice juke joint plod, but Ward’s vocals drown under too much reverb and the music, while pleasant enough, never rises above the level of straight homage. The latter takes most of its run-time to rise above a whisper, and the character study in the lyrics is too loose to create much of a connection. The song’s closing minutes, after the bass and drums shuffle in, allowing the formerly solo piano a chance to branch out in melody, has all the makings of excellent nightclub melancholy. It’s not nearly as essential as any of his full-lengths, but To Go Home has more hits than misses, a sign of success for any single.
Merge Records: www.mergerecords.com