A blues harmonica sears its howl into the chugging riff that greets us as we enter “A Good Life Made,” the first of thirteen tracks contained in the treasure chest of tonality that is John Vento’s new album Love, Lust & Other Wreckage. Vento utters poetic words in his trademark achy vocal, a bit of yearning in his voice here, a little retrospection there. The duality in his singing carries over into the beachy “Let Me Down Easy” and eventually to the swaggering “Baby Blues,” which might not have been designed to be a feel-good anthem but plays out like one just the same. A marching acoustic beat pushes us through the glistening “Well Yeah Maybe,” and it becomes quite obvious that this is more than just another alternative folk record in a year primed to see some great ones.
A melancholic set of strings staggers over the threatening electric riff creeping through the shadows of “Just Don’t Care,” but its menacing qualities are essentially silenced in the bittersweet “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You.” With the integrity of a lifelong troubadour, he sings with a deep passion that is inspirational and accessible despite the complexity of the harmonies, continuing his dazzling display well into the poppy “Eye Candy.” At track eight, over half-way through the album, we run into “Only Love Stays Alive,” my favorite song from Love, Lust & Other Wreckage. This number sways like a tree in the breeze, but its roots stay strong and impenetrable. If the rollicking tempo doesn’t get your attention, you can bet the unforgettable chorus will for sure.
“Rainbows & Lightning” injects a little bit of ambient flare into a robotic pop song structure that quickly becomes a much more orchestrated, colorful exercise in folk melodies. As it comes apart and the next track comes alive, we dive into the furious spit of “Humble Way” and its highbrow riffing that has no trouble smacking us around and waking up the primal part that lives inside all of us. It sets us up for the minimalist midcentury harmonies that give “With You” a vintage vinyl quality, and to be truthful I think that the two songs go together so well that playing them individually takes away most, if not all, of their cinematic feel.
An immaculate chorus line paves the way for us to ease into “Follow Your Heart,” only to slowly find us ending up wedged between Vento and a hostile electric guitar part that for whatever reason dredged up my own memories of listening to Bad Company as a kid. Vento’s definitely got the same unspoken growl and sense of danger in his music, with as much evidenced in the concluding “I’ll Be Still” and its stony rhythm flanked by bright lyricism. I wasn’t all that familiar with John Vento’s complete body of work prior to listening to this new album, but I must say that I plan on getting ahold of everything I can after experiencing his talent firsthand in these chilling ballads of life and loves now long gone.Love, Lust & Other Wreckage is robust, relentless and rebellious rock n’ roll for anyone who truly loves the genre at its simplest.