Pop Song As Hanging Garden–Pete Yorn’s Nightcrawler

Pete Yorn
Nightcrawler
Columbia

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Welcome to the third Pete Yorn album.

Nightcrawler isn’t as outstanding as musicforthemorningafter (2001), but it’s better – and more ambitious – than Day I Forgot (2003). Nightcrawler concludes Yorn’s “morning day and night trilogy of metaphors of progression of my life…It just feels like the third installment of what I started out doing back in 2000.”

Nightcrawler is grungier work than musicforthemorningafter and Day I Forgot. The songs are arch-romantic landscapes, their singer-songwriter architecture drenched in Seventies fuzz, punctuated with Eighties keyboard flourishes and embroidered with electronica. Yorn has steeped himself in post-Sixties popular music, everything from Led Zeppelin to New Order to Pearl Jam to Beck, and the songs on Nightcrawler are haunted pop soundscapes, drawing from a diverse list of artists that includes Dinosaur Jr., Led Zeppelin, Morcheeba, the Psychedelic Furs, Radiohead, St. Etienne, Paul Simon, Soundgarden and Rod Stewart. You might hear a little Pavement on Nightcrawler, particularly Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and maybe some Chris Whitley and Tommy Stinson’s Village Gorilla Head.

In addition to co-producing Nightcrawler, Yorn plays acoustic and electric guitar, bass, organ, drums and percussion, with organ assistance from Rami Jaffee of the Wallflowers on “For Us” and “The Man.” Dave Grohl plays drums on “For Us,” and Dixie Chicks Natalie Maines and Martie Maguire provide backing vocals on “The Man.”

Nightcrawler is sludgy, propulsive bed-sit classic rock, songs for late nights and bright mornings, anthems for iPods. Yorn’s work is as hooky as anything by the Pernice Brothers or Velvet Crush, if they’d grown up in New Jersey listening to hair metal and Bruce Springsteen, then fled for Southern California with Born to Run, Blue Lines and Bridge Over Troubled Water on the car stereo. The album’s best songs include “For Us,” “Undercover,” “The Man,” “Alive” and “Ice Age.” “Alive” lifts its beat and melody from the Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink,” while “The Man” and “Ice Age” are particularly melodious and lush. Both songs are emblematic of what Yorn does best – pop song as hanging garden.