In case you missed it, Iowa City’s resident aural weirdo and bottomless pit of creativity, Samuel Locke Ward, has deemed 2013 to be “The Lame Years” and made a half-hearted vow to release a new album every month for the entire year.
The “half-hearted” jibe is the result of his clarification that he can pull out of his mock contract with fans at any time during the 12-month period, Ward could back out of the schedule and miss a month or so. From what I understand, SLW and his wife just had their first baby, so experience should indicate that this goal is probably going to be a tough one to complete.
Experience also shows that the more you try to throw against the wall to see what sticks, the more shit you’ll have to clean up when it’s all over. But S.L.W. has been running at a break-neck release schedule for some time now, and while it’s proven to include some filler, the ratio is surprisingly low.
For The Lame Years second release, Panther Puss, the ratio dips even lower. The February release is a more acoustic affair where as Volume 1 took a more electronic approach, which was good if not a bit harder to appreciate.
Samuel Locke Ward thrives in the acoustic setting as it forces him to rely on his keen sense of song structure instead of the plethora of distracting audio and instrument gadgets that always seem to be close by.
The strongest of the lot-“Swastika Eyes”-may be his best song to date, sung in a desperate register while his vocal dubbed companion tackles a higher one on the right channel. “The master race spiel has me yawning every time” he admits, “And your new hate-do has me rolling my eyes.”
The politics are an exaggeration (hopefully), but the song’s overall message-coming to terms with the pink elephant of a relationship, and having that colorful pachyderm the reason for splitting-is something that lots of couples have had to endure. While the decision may be easy, the love that is lost in the process still hurts, even when it’s morally necessary.
S.L.W. cleverly follows the track with one entitled “A Terrible Man Will Lead Us,” and whoever that leader is-Bush, Obama, Hitler-is a matter of your own perception, as Sam isn’t one to offer many hints.
Otherwise, Panther Puss is more of the same low-fi zaniness complete with strange vocal takes against a backdrop of surprisingly straightforward arrangements. Think Sun City Girls without the world-view instrumentation and with more personal politics as the primary motivator.
Ward isn’t one to specify who’s responsible for his discontent, he merely reports. And from the front line, it’s an existence of finding canned bargains in the damaged item rack (“Gimmie Canned Food”), dealing with people who lack any semblance of empathy for the human race (“Why Should I Care?”), and how his college town world is suddenly filled with bad people instead of the far-fetched notion that Iowa City’s free-spirit liberals have kept it clear of the same bullshit that impacts everyone else (“Shitty Streets”).
It’s one thing to document your everyday trial and tribulations, but to do it in such a fascinating manner is something that’s only reserved for those with the talent to make it so compulsory. Samuel Locke Ward possesses that talent, and Panther Puss suggests that his “Lame Years” project is neither lame or suffering from its assembly-line release schedule.