Jason Simon, guitarist and vocalist from Washington D.C psych-rockers Dead Meadow, returns to his solo endeavours with a pristine and bucolic album that guides his versatile guitar signature through a dreamy and yearning lyrical universe. In one of his clearest efforts to date, A Venerable Wreck brings together ideas from his band’s records displayed on a new instrumental dimension inhabiting lands lying somewhere between cosmic psychedelia, backwoods Americana, and intimate folk.
After several albums with Dead Meadow on labels like Matador and Xemu Records (his band’s own music imprint), Simon, surrounded by new collaborators, is adventuring into distant lands and releasing his solo album through Chilean BYM Records (Föllakzoid, Chicos de Nazca, The Ganjas) who recently celebrated 10 years of existence. Jason became impressed with the label and decided he wanted to work with them during a visit to the country in 2016, when Dead Meadow played a festival and some shows at the record label. In the last couple of years, in between releasing records, Jason recorded the new songs at his own and several studios in his resident city, Los Angeles CA, where he and Dead Meadow have resided for the last decade.
Working with a number of musicians, including Nate Ryan and Jason “Plucky” Anchondo from The Warlocks, the songs were recorded over the last few years, giving room to a melting pot of arrangements that brings to life tales and well-constructed poems from the likes of Leonard Cohen.
Album opener “The Same Dream” sets the mood and context for the songs to come – a droning country-fantasy that cuts to the bone with an emotive amplified banjo marking tempo and measures; while “See What It Takes” demonstrates Jason’s growth as a troubadour, giving importance to the vocals and message. Metaphors and allegories are recited in “Snowflakes are Dancing” and “Doors Won’t Shut Blues” followed by soft wah-wah solos and subtle tremolo infused guitars, which gravitate along the record, providing transient and surrealistic vibes. “No Entrance No Exit” and “Hollow Lands” move the country Americana mood along, never losing the author’s idea or drama.
The song “A Venerable Wreck” is the black sheep of the album with its interweaving melodies and pulsing layers of tape echo. But it is this song which connects both sides of the record and showcases the complexities of the songwriter, one who is unwilling to compromise his vision simply to conform to the obvious. A songwriter who is not content to be pigeonholed into a single style or genre, and can close an album with a song nodding towards the low rider soul classics of Billy Steward and Brenton Wood, “Without Reason or Right.”