Wreckless Eric

Transience

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Wreckless Eric (aka Eric Goulden) is probably doomed to have the words "Genial Eccentric" etched on his tombstone, and it's not exactly inaccurate, but it also shortchanges the strength of his body of work. His outlook on the world has its fair share of quirks, but he's also a keenly observant, clever, and heartfelt songwriter, and he's matured into one of the most consistently satisfying artists to have risen from the gang of oddballs at Stiff Records in the '70s. Eric has also learned how to make a record on his own terms, and the home-brewed lo-fi clamor of his albums of the 2010s suits his creative outlook better than the gimmicky sound of the sizable majority of his better-known work from his 1977-1980 heyday. 2019's Transience was his third album in five years -- pretty good productivity for a guy who sat out most of the '80s and '90s, and features a solid band backing him up, including Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick on bass and Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello's Attractions on drums, who keep the music solidly on track even when the guitars and keyboards start getting fidgety. The humor you would expect from Eric is here, yet there's a significant portion of angst and introspection; the songs were written in the wake of the death of Goulden's mother and first wife, and the uncertainty of human lives and the tricky balance of family and friendships is audible in tunes like "Father to the Man," "The Half of It," and "Tiny House," the latter a plea for some small piece of security amidst uncertainty. If this makes Transience sound pretentious, thankfully it's far from that; Wreckless Eric is one of music's common men, even if he's a good bit brighter than most of his peers, and this music is honest and relatable, messy enough to be expressive and focused enough to hit its targets. No one was likely to have guessed that Wreckless Eric would be on a creative hot streak four decades after he made his debut, but that is indeed what's happening, and Transience manages to be surprising while also reflecting what Goulden has long done so well.

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