Superwolves, occasional collaborators Matt Sweeney and Will Oldham’s first album together since 2005’s Superwolf, begins with the warmly foreboding Make Worry For Me. It’s one of those rare tracks that has me skipping straight to the beginning as before the final chord has even finished ringing out. A simple arpeggiated guitar part and sinister narrator (“You can be whatever you want to be but you won’t be bad as me”) bring to mind Every Breath You Take. The real sweetener, though, is Sweeney’s ominous lead playing, weaving between the vocals before spilling into a slippery psychedelic solo.
The two constants throughout Superwolves running time are the high quality of the song-writing and Sweeney’s playing. His parts have an acid-drench 13th Floor Elevators vibe and his touch makes potential frenetic licks sound fluid and relaxed. Although stylistically completely different, the sense of control put me in mind of the country guitarist Albert Lee.
On first listening, I found it impossible to discern who was responsible for what material. I’d unfairly assumed that the upbeat Shorty’s Ark and Resist the Urge were Matt Sweeney songs. Surely words so pure and untroubled couldn’t have come from the same mind that produced I See A Darkness? It turns out the song-writing process involved Oldham sending completed lyrics to Sweeney, who came up with the accompaniment and vocal melodies.
Overall, there is brightness and optimism to the lyrics that inform the tone, both sonically and figuratively, of the album. My Body is My Own, a sort of transmigration in song form, talks of death but also rebirth.
I’ve saved for my next incarnation, boxes, bags and bowls of breath. Bales of joy and raw elation to break me through this wall of death.
Bolstered by Sweeney’s harmonies, it is a lighter concoction than you’d imagine and Oldham’s performance will perhaps put the journalistic trope of describing his vocals as ‘fragile’ to bed. If it does, then the duo’s cover of The Byrds There Must Be Someone I Can Turn To will surely read it a bedroom story, tuck it in, and turn off the light.
I read somewhere that the Superwolves often talked about the Glen Campbell album Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb and how the singer’s voice externalised Webb’s internal voice. With this album, I think Sweeney accomplishes a similar feat. Listening to it, it’s hard not to get excited by the prospect of a third outing.
Superwolves is out now, via Domino Records