Here's one of the most frustrating things about great Little Rock bands: far too many of them break up way too soon, for reasons ranging from the seemingly trivial to the profoundly heartbreaking. Others might not call it quits, but nonetheless stay on hiatus at length. Fortunately for the rest of us, most of these folks seem to be utterly incapable of abandoning their band-forming habits, the music bug having sunk its fangs into their tender hides at an early age.
Exhibit A: The Wicked Good, which has been playing around for a couple years now and whose debut album, "You're Welcome," was released yesterday.
The five-piece outfit was formed by folks from some of the city's best bands of the last 10 years, including Jon Rice and Corey Bacon of Smoke Up Johnny, David Slade of American Princes and The Moving Front's Micah Fitzhugh and Jeff Matika, who's also a veteran of Ashtray Babyhead and pulls double-duty as a touring member of Green Day.
While those groups could accurately be called loud rock 'n' roll, none of them sounded alike. The Wicked Good doesn't sound like any of them either, instead pursuing loud rock 'n' rollness as an end unto itself. The group's three shred-happy guitars, pulsing eighth notes from the bass and pounding, relentless drumming, make that plain. Too, the band's logo — easily one of the best in recent memory — says it all: a volume knob cranked all the way to the right, to 11.
While the band has influences that surface from time to time — the odd Black Sabbath-y riff here, an Iron Maiden-esque solo there, Thin Lizzy-ish guitar harmonies everywhere — its sound isn't the result of any sort of inter-band focus groups or attempts to recreate yesteryear's sounds today.
"There's never been a conscious decision on anybody's part to say, 'Well, this is the kind of song we're going to write today,'" said singer and guitarist Slade. Rather, the band sounds like the result of a bunch of guys who've been playing music for a long time just getting together and hashing it out in a cramped practice space over some cold beers.
"My favorite record this summer was the Bon Iver self-titled album, and in no way, shape or form will that ever influence the sound of The Wicked Good," Slade said.
That much is clear from the opening blast of "Year of the Drugs," the album's first song, which would require at least a year's worth of drugs to ever be mistaken for Bon Iver's omnivorous, folk-informed pop.
After several spins, any games of Spot the Influence seem superfluous. It's basically catchy, smart, loud rock with blistering leads and bitchin' guitar harmonies.
"Home Tonight" kicks off with a Maiden-esque intro before morphing into a bruiser of an on-the-road lament and wrapping up with a stinging, circular guitar solo. "People You Know" takes an unexpected, head-banging left turn toward the end of the song. "Hush Hush" is an up-tempo blast driven by a double-time boogie-down verse that alternates with a chorus of chugging palm-muted guitar. It sounds, well, just wicked.
Outside of anything incredibly improbable, don't look for The Wicked Good to hit the road for any significant length of time.
"One of the first things I told everybody — and I think they were all on the same page when we started — was, I will never tour," Slade said. "It's nice in that regard, because it's freeing. We don't have to worry about this being something that's ultimately going to pay rent for us or just offset the amount of economic loss we'd have from not being able to work and going on the road a bunch."
Guitarist Matika's Green Day duties will likely resume at some point, though he couldn't say for sure when that might be.
"The last tour went great," Matika said. "The way we left off was, 'Hey, see you next album.' "
Although The Wicked Good's self-released album and once-a-month show schedule might not pay anybody's rent, Slade said the band is always open to new possibilities for revenue streams.
"It's funny, because everyone is like, 'I want to license something to a sweet video game or I want to license something to a hit movie,' " he said. "Screw that, man. I'll license something to commercials. Hopefully we could be the jingle writers for the next Summer's Eve campaign."