Truth be told 5 days ago I hadn’t heard a single note played by this band. Seen the name written many many times over the last 4-5 years but never took the time to click play on any of their music. That all changed with Laughing Matter. It’s been said that Laughing Matter is nothing like the roads previously walked by Wand. They have slowly evolved out of their psyche folk rock skin into meatier guitar licks and a new found art rock direction. I will still go back and check out their earlier material because like this album, they’ve all gotten pretty solid thumbs ups across the board but I’ll save that for another time. This album has been compared to mid 90s Radiohead so often in the last week that it now feels extremely cliche to write about that angle. Let’s just get it out of the way. Wand are not Radiohead. Not even close. Are they inspired and influenced by them? Sure. I think that is a safe bet. Does anything actually sound like The Bends or Ok Computer? No. Not really and that is ok. Wand are making smart, dark sophisticated rock music (hence the Radiohead allusions) in a world that is seemingly losing that kind of magic on a daily basis. Does anyone remember guitar solos anymore?
To my ears the only track that remotely sounds like Radiohead is the arpeggio guitars running throughout “Thin Air”. Outside of that I think many listens are reaching and looking to fill that Radiohead void as the band is in the middle of a lengthy hiatus. Laughing Matter is a double LP that is all over the map in the best ways possible. You have the harder hitting rockers in “Scarecrow”, “XOXO”, “Walkie Talkie”, “Wonder”, “Lucky’s Sight” that are supported by a handful of gentle and lush compositions in “High Planes Drifter”, “Rio Grande”, “Wonder (II)” and the sprawling 9 minute epic “Airplane” that features one of the best guitar ending meltdowns of the last few years. Reminds me of some of the guitar work done by Jeff Tweedy on Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born. Mixed in throughout this record are some relaxing instrumental passages called “Bubble”, “Hare” and “Tortoise” giving the listener a bit of a reprieve before lead singer Cory Hanson and company continue with their onslaught of “music from the ashes of a world that can no longer suffer its human abusers, to inspire us to hold the spirit close and do what’s next” as their record label describes this LP’s mission statement.
Interestingly the album comes to a close with a song titled “Jennifer’s Gone” that completely pays homage to the spirit of Lou Reed in his Velvet Underground days. Definitely not the type of song I would have been expected to pop up on this record after an hour of solid alt rock offerings. Not that it is bad in anyway, its actually very excellent. This song feels like it could have easily been on last year’s album I’m Bad Now by Nap Eyes. I guess the band wanted to give some sort of tribute to the late great Lou Reed. All in all Laughing Matter is offering up a lot of well written material that covers a ton of ground and makes you really appreciate the lost art of the album format. In a musical landscape that is constantly embracing and pushing solo artists, Wand make it cool to be in a band again. Go pickup, download or stream Wand’s Laughing Matter. You won’t be disappointed. You’ll probably even tell your friends about them.