by Sam Hawkins
It should come as no surprise that those confined to small spaces may aspire to things more expansive than the cage they’ve been set in.
Recent Missouri migrant and Scottish national, Gary McClure, aka American Wrestlers, has written and recorded his eponymously titled album within the confines of his two-room home – to a torrent of overdue applause.
Mapping out his sound on a selection of secondhand instruments and a pawnshop tape recorder, McClure’s brand of lo-fi Americana is as much a product of consequence as it is one of intention.
Like a bad bout of tinnitus, the fuzz and wobble of his DIY setup is present from the get-go, washing over each track like the permanent crash of waves. But rather than cramp the album, it works to broaden it, airing it out and expanding its scale. Through a deft blend of throwback Americana and a fortuitous indie configuration, both the scope and sentimentality of the record are complemented and accompanied.
“Wild Yonder,” a softly plodding lamentation of a simpler time, is practically frothing from the 8-track it’s been taken down upon. If not for McClure’s competency and thematic vision as a songwriter, the track might have been obscured by a sheer inattentiveness to production. Fortunately, with his wandering piano and undulating vocals, the track is showcased as an ambitious piece of folk-infused indie rock, the backwash of noise only adding to its nostalgic mythos.
Similarly, through echoing instrumentation and ghostly vocals, “The Rest of You” exhibits McClure’s talent in appropriating the auxiliary noise into his own sonic landscape. With a galloping guitar line and snapping snare drum, the din behind it creates an atmosphere equally engaging as it is ambient, something to induce daydreams without ever becoming absentminded.
But American Wrestlers isn’t without its more buoyant moments. Songs like “I Can Do No Wrong” and “Kelly” circulate through more sweet-sounding instrumentals, as McClure more closely engages with pop music than he does cavernous Americana. With anthemic hooks, satisfying guitar melodies, and the same unceasing ripple in voice and production, American Wrestlers successfully displays the wide range at which they’re willing to perform.
As a whole, the album works wonderfully like the scoring of some new frontier, punctuated both by moments of hope and distress. With something so expansive born out of such a cramped space, I can’t wait to see American Wrestlers get up and stretch their legs.