While Natalie Merchant's elastic vocal cords are the obvious centerpiece of 10,000 Maniacs' lilting folk-pop, what becomes apparent early on in The Wishing Chair is that the band would likely dry up and drift away like a dandelion if it weren't for the inventive, wiry guitar playing of Robert Buck. It's Buck's instrument that acts as a constant (tin) foil for the spicy mustard goodness of Merchant's vocal cords, whether he's laying down the Johnny Marr-style spider riffs of "Grey Victory" and "Scorpio Rising," or inspiring a thousand private college-based cover bands with "Maddox Table"'s chorus pedal dynamics. While The Wishing Chair ends up being a little too long, it is nevertheless a sparkling major-label debut, and even bares its incisors a bit alongside more pastoral fare like "Cotton Alley." The shining "My Mother the War" bounces along on a tensile, new wave-inspired groove that even includes what can only be described as a mirthful whoop from the normally opaque Merchant. The majority of The Wishing Chair underpins the sound that came to define the Maniacs and Merchant's later solo flight. But when its hackles are raised, it's like finding out that the teacher's pet smokes cigarettes behind the school bus.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus