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The Celebrated Workingman's Softened Intensity

Sep. 7, 2011
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Recorded in a four-day blitz, The Celebrated Workingman's 2008 debut album, Herald the Dickens, captured the bombast and euphoria of the Milwaukee rock band's colorful live shows. Given singer-songwriter Mark Waldoch's predilection for extremes, though, perhaps it was inevitable that the band would take the exact opposite approach for its sophomore record. A much more deliberately crafted work, the band's new Content Content was recorded in fits and starts over a year and extensively tweaked in the studio.

"I think because we recorded our first album so fast, a sense of urgency and spontaneity came through, but I also thought that was a detriment," Waldoch explains. "I wanted to take more time with this one, so we could polish the songs more, do weirder stuff to them, and let them breathe, rather than make the record this really intense, in-your-face thing. That intensity is kind of our forte as a band, but I wanted more layering and more subtlety on this record, not just a kitchen-sink barrage."

To that end, the band found a fitting collaborator in producer Ryan Weber of Decibully and Eric & Magill, two groups known for their dense, intricately recorded studio output.

Content Content
(you can pronounce it any way you'd like) still hosts plenty of the band's jubilant guitar-pop songs, though this time they are broken up with moodier studio experiments and a couple of full-on ballads that frame Waldoch's singular voice with just guitar or piano. A blustery croon that travels like an air siren and cuts like a rusty blade, that voice is the band's trump card, but it doesn't tame easily. The goal for this album was to soften it.

"I felt that the first record was just too fatiguing for people to listen to from beginning to end because my voice was too much," Waldoch says. "It sounds like I'm yelling at you because I'm singing with such force, even though I don't mean it to, so lately I've been trying to take some of the focus off of it, and trying to find ways to make it less aggressive."

Ultimately, the quieter respites on Content Content actually make Waldoch's most fervent bellows feel that much more striking by contrast, and this time around those bellows convey greater complexity. Waldoch is an unabashedly earnest lyricist, singing in fairly direct pleas for love and acceptance, yet on these songs the exact emotion behind his voice can be difficult to pinpoint. An exultant wail, it turns out, can sound an awful lot like a pained one, and that ambiguity lends the album an undercurrent of dissonance.

"As a singer, I just try to put the words out there and give them that intensity," Waldoch says. "Some people might hear them as incredibly happy, while they may strike others as lamenting or sad, but hopefully they have a quality that anybody can relate to, regardless of how they interpret them. That's the goal, at least. I don't hit that mark with every song, but I think I do with some of them."

Content Content is posted for free streaming and download at thecelebratedworkingman.bandcamp.com.


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