Follow Us on Twitter

Wheat - Everyday I Said a Prayer For Kathy And Made A One Inch Square

Wheat, Everyday I Said A Prayer For Kathy

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FORMED by two students at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth – Scott Levesque (vocals, guitar) and Brendan Harney (drums) – Wheat was originally conceived as an art project.

They were quickly joined by Ricky Brennan (guitars, vocals) and put out their debut album Medeiros in 1998. It yielded an NME Single Of The Week in the form of Death Car as well as a bumper crop of superlatives from the press on both sides of the Atlantic.

Its follow-up, Hope & Adams was released in 2000 and saw the band shift up a gear, employing renowned producer Dave Fridmann to develop their ideas while remaining true to their original artistic intentions.

Critics duly responded by hailing Wheat as a truly great American indie rock band and in Don’t I Hold You – employed to great effect by Cameron Crowe in the movie Elizabethtown – they delivered one of the most simple but heartbreaking love songs of the year.

The band, meanwhile, toured extensively, building up an impressive reputation for both stretching out their songs and their charismatic stage presence – Levesque as frontman was coy but captivating, Harney as pearl-necklaced drummer an eccentric but hypnotic force behind the kit.

Wheat looked primed for the mainstream, albeit with unusually uncompromised success. As so often happens, though, fate conspired against them and the band was advised to leave their European label in favour of another that, unbeknownst to them, was about to fold.

Mere days after the deal was signed news reached them that their album was now an asset of a company that had gone out of business.

Dense legal battles followed, and though the band emerged intact over a year later to sign with Aware / Sony, the record – the typically cryptically titled Per Second, Per Second, Per Second… Every Second – had not emerged so unscathed.

Instead it had been remixed and in places re-recorded, largely at the label’s behest, and was consequently rendered comparatively lifeless (although it still went on to sell 30,000 copies in the US). In the end it was never released outside of North America.

Brennan quit the band while Levesque and Harney retreated into a long silence, exhausted and disillusioned. Rumours that Wheat had broken up were not too far from the truth.

Fortunately, Levesque and Harney began talking again and reconvened in the summer of 2005 to try out new tracks just to see where the songs and ideas might lead.

The result is Everyday I Said a Prayer For Kathy And Made A One Inch Square, another smart US indie rock album that manages to appeal to mainstream sensibilities without compromising their arty tendencies.

Many of the tracks unfold with almost ambient tranquility, easing you into each listen. It suggests what might happen if a band like Sigur Ros merged with someone like Weezer and began churning out highly artistic but highly infectious hits.

Closeness is a classic case in point, an ethereal slow-builder that becomes ever more enchanting the more you listen to it.

But it’s nicely counter-balanced by the more accessible Move=move, with its central motif of “the things that you love should be set free”. The electronics lend it a quirky, slightly offbeat edge, but the chorus is supremely catchy, while the guitar work is first rate.

Elsewhere, Saint In Law takes on an almost heavenly quality early on, which is great for chilling out with, What You Got draws on some very snappy beats to lend it an even wider crossover appeal, and Round In The Corners employs some genuinely charming melodies and riffs.

An Exhausted Fixer is another cracking listen, embracing a much more straightforward indie-rock sensibility, while Courting Ed Templeton draws the album to a close with a beguiling pastoral instrumental poem.

As for the album’s name… “It’s about remembering through a ritual,” explains Harney. “We lose things we love, sometimes, in life. People turn corners and things change, and we try to remember.

“We make art, but art becomes stylized. Then we decide to make a square, simply to remember. Or hope, maybe.”

There’s plenty that’s worth remembering about this rich, eclectic album. Wheat’s return is something to embrace and be excited by…

Download picks: Closeness, Move=Move, Saint In Law, Round In The Corners, An Exhausted Fixer, Courting Ed Templeton

Track listing:

  1. Closeness
  2. Little White Dove
  3. Move = Move
  4. I Had Angels Watching Over Me
  5. Init 005 (formerly a case of…)
  6. Saint In Law
  7. What You Got
  8. To As In Addressing The Grave
  9. Round In The Corners
  10. Exhausted Fixer
  11. Courting Ed Templeton