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Wes Cunningham, 12 Ways to Win People To Your Way of Thinking (WEA/Warner Brothers)

by L. Messmer

On Wes Cunningham's debut major label release 12 Ways to Win People To Your Way of Thinking, one word can describe the entire album: eclectic. Each of the twelve songs enters into a sound that emulates his various musical interests. On one song The Beatles can be heard and on others the sounds of Texas can be heard. He weaves instruments together for a blend of some indescribable concoction. The only constant is his laidback songwriting and his continuous strumming of an acoustic guitar. He strums through beat boxes, samples, saxophones and a plethora of other instruments.

The first two songs are a bit tedious, with way too many musical styles blending together for a rough mix of hard rock and janglely vocals that just do not sound right. The third song "So it goes" does use the abundance of musical styles for a wonderful, catchy song. It blends a Tex-Mex sound with lackadaisical lyrics giving the impression of sunny skies and good times. It starts out simple with a drum beat and wispy vocals then a lonely slide guitar kicks in as well as backing vocals for a southern flavored sound. Then an onslaught of horns, and small samples kick in sending the song into high, funky gear. Think of very early Urban Dance Squad with a laid back singer and you may get the same effect.

The up-tempo music continues until "Magazines," which is a haunting song that features Cunningham crooning over a dreary piano and samples of random sounds of a downtown city. The lyrics are incredibly depressing and come out clear as day amid the quiet background music. "What are you going to do when all of your beauty is gone/ when they don't want pictures of you sticking your tongue out on magazines/well you might be funny know when you open your mouth and they are all laughing/but one day all you jokes will leave you insides broken and your pretty voice will be gone." Extremely depressing stuff.

Cunningham comes firing back with "Win some, lose some." Loud and fast, the song describes self-pity and how dangerous it is. It goes through scenarios that call for self-pity and demolishes it with the attitude of what the title describes, "you win some and lose some" so don't let it bug you. By far the track that impressed me the most was "Not enough." Cunningham's guitar playing drove the song through even with all the electronic effects and solid drum beat. Then right in the middle if the song a horn trio comes in and takes the song in an entirely different direction. More instruments pile up, but Cunningham remains steady with his guitar. A piano rips in, more backing vocals and vocal effects come in and the chorus is just incredible. It sounds like Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wildside" chorus, but hopped up on Prozac. "Not enough" is very catchy and I probably will be humming it for weeks.

12 Ways to Win People To Your Way of Thinking is a rare mix of various styles that come together and does not sound busy. It ranges from lonesome ballads to high-octane rock and roll with a bit of everything else mixed in for good measure.

Issue 1, April 2000 | next article

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