The Late Cord – Lights from the Wheelhouse

The Late Cord
Lights from the Wheelhouse

“Lila Blue,” the lead track from the Earlies’ John-Mark Lapham and solo performer Micah P. Hinson’s new collaboration the Late Cord, spends six minutes on what sounds like CD skipping noises — artfully arranged, of course — with a bit of keyboard and mumbled vocals through a distorter then transitions for the remaining three minutes into a deadpan acoustic number. It’s all very quiet, very mystical, and very stupid. If I want to hear a CD skipping, I’ll jump around while one that I like is playing.

It’s only fitting that venerable alternative label 4AD would release something as inaccessible as this. The home of quite a few dark, somber acts, this, I guess, fits in well with the remainder of the 4AD roster. “Lila Blue” will sound just fine in the middle of a 4AD compilation.

But, as whole, Lights from the Wheelhouse is total hogwash. In fact, calling it hogwash gives hogwash a bad name. Let me continue.

“Lila” is followed by “The Late Cord,” which is three bass notes, some keyboard trickles, and more mumbled vocals, punctuated by the occasional guitar note. Then comes “Chains/Strings,” which is, well, strings. It’s nice, I guess, but, really, if you’re buying music to hear pop musicians write for the violin, I can suggest alternatives (like, I dunno, classical music?) that you might find more appealing.

“My Most Meaningful Relationships are with Dead People” would be deeply ironic were the song title shouted at a sold-out stadium gig, but, alas, it never will be because it’s a miserable song centered around a piano line that never ends and never changes for the entire five-minute song, and the depressed, unsexy, moaned lyrics of remorse are limited to about four lines repeated six times. The whole thing would almost be reminiscent of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds… if Cave had writer’s block and a piano with only three keys.

“Relationships” is followed by the thankfully concluding track, the uplifting “Hung on the Cemetery Gates.” This is four minutes of more depressed, unsexy moaning (but this time dispensing with lyrics entirely) accompanied by what sounds like random harmonica. The moaning, by the way, continues after the harmonica ends. Yes, it’s a merciful release when the harmonica ends, and then you realize it would’ve been a merciful release if the moaning had ended instead, and then you realize it would’ve been an even more merciful release if Lights from the Wheelhouse just wouldn’t play in your CD player 20 minutes ago.

I’ll give Lights credit for “Lila Blue.” On first listen, I thought it was tolerable. Unusual, yes, but acceptable. But upon hearing the remainder of Lights, I can only assume 4AD signed the Late Cord sound-unheard, thinking to turn the success of its individual members into some sort of super group. Congratulations, 4AD, because this is super bad.

I’m sure there are people who really dig tuneless groans, three-note pianos, and all of the other junk that Lights entails. They must be out there. But I would only recommend this to my worst enemy after he gets fired from his job sponge-bathing the lepers in the hopes that he would hang himself…because all along he could have been getting paid for making noise like this instead.