Samuel Locke Ward
Major Surgery at Discount Rates
Major Surgery at Discount Rates finds Samuel Locke Ward in full power pop mode. After some eerie organ pulses, “Uninspired” leaps off the starting line. Locke Ward, playing all the instruments, sets a high-stepping pace with almost claustrophobically tight drumming, phase-shifted guitar lead and chugging rhythm guitar work. The anthemic, fist-pumping chorus belies the bleak ethos of the song: “Uninspired … I just float along in pity for myself.” It’s the aural equivalent of beer-fueled high kicks and windmill guitar strums after a double-shift at a soul-crushing job.
Then there’s the off-kilter, one-two punch of “Sick of Me” and “The Old Gods.” The former is a fuzzed-out speed ball of self-deprecation. The latter, “The Old Gods,” is a creepy death march of a song, full of fire and brimstone and guitar lines unspooling backward.
The second-to-last cut showcases the strength of Locke Ward as a songwriter. With only his voice and an acoustic guitar, he composed one of the most arresting tracks on the album. While “soaked beneath the light / of that blood orange sky” Locke Ward almost cries to someone who is missing his substance. Maybe it’s to an audience who assumes that every one of his songs comes replete with a silly sneer. Somebody missed something somewhere and now we’re all going to feel how deeply it affected Locke Ward.
The album ends with a song that should become the soundtrack to the lingering recession: “Regret to Inform You.” The track is the rejection form-letter so many job-seekers have received in these hard times repeated ad nauseum over a swirling, baroque-pop dirge. Locke Ward only frees us, briefly, from the HR nightmare for a tongue-in-cheek bridge about how it actually feels to get that email: “It’s crystal clear, like Crystal Lake, / Where all those poor kids died. / See it written across your face, / where all those poor kids died.”
John Schlotfelt has that income tax swag.