Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sterling Witt – Satyagraha

You can tell, after even one listen to this album, who Sterling Witt cut his teeth on as a young musician turned on by rock and punk music. It certainly wasn’t G.G. Alin and The Mentors. There’s a highly charged political and philosophical edge to the thirteen songs on his latest release Satyagraha, but we always hear the real individual behind these sentiments, so it never seems dogmatic or preachy. If it were nothing else, this collection would surely be heartfelt. Moreover, despite its intelligence, Witt never takes things so high brow that he loses his audience. The melodies powering these songs immediately bring listeners into their world and, once there, Witt and his band mates continue to unleash one entertaining musical passage after another. This is as fully realized of a musical effort as you are likely to hear this year and certainly gives lie to the idea that rock music is somehow a passé art form. If it is, Sterling Witt never got the memo.  

Thank god he never did. Songs like “Perception Deception” are quite bright, but they also have a storm the ramparts quality missing in both mainstream and the remnants of the punk rock genre today. This isn’t Green Day punk – this is The Clash at their best with a healthy dose of ass-kicking melodic lead guitar thrown in for good measure. Few songs make this clearer than the album’s third song, “Who Do You Listen To?” Such a difficult message and theme can often be lost in the popular song form, but this track explores the band’s musical talents quite well and gets its message over without any difficulty. “Spirtual Revolution” is largely an instrumental number and it excels thanks to the memorable riffing and melody alike that Witt unveils for his listeners. The chemistry between the three band members is palpable, especially on song’s like this where lyrics are jettisoned in favor of a much more strictly musical performance. 

“Make It” and “Just So You Know” are likely the angriest full on songs found on Satyagraha, but Witt never forgoes his art just for the sake of mindlessly indulging his rage. Instead, these are forcefully played and worded fusillades of condemnation aimed at a modern world incapable of valuing reality or the individual. Music like this clears away the bullshit and shows us one man’s experience in startling clarity. “The Answer” changes the textures we’ve heard so far – instead of blasting away on his guitar, Witt reins things in and shows great subtlety from an album that, to this point, has trained us not to expect such things. The shift in tone deepens the release as a whole. “I Love You More Everyday” is the album’s most commercial number, thanks to its irrepressible melody, but there’s humor here as well beside Witt’s typically intelligent lyrics./ The details, in particular, make it a strong narrative that complements the music well. Satyagraha engages listeners intellectually and physically without ever placing importance on one facet above all others. This sort of balance is hard to achieve and obviously the product of a superior talent.  

9 out of 10 stars. 

Bradley Johnson

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