No one will ever accuse The Celebrated Workingman of not wearing its heart on its sleeve. On the Milwaukee group’s breakout 2008 debut, Herald The Dickens, singer-songwriter Mark Waldoch and company dialed up the melodrama for a frantic, sometimes exhausting exercise in bombastic indie rock. Three years later, Waldoch is back with a reconfigured band and a more controlled sound. The new Content Content (the name is open to multiple pronunciations) benefits from that restraint, and sets a new high-water mark for the group.
Credit the Workingman’s not-so-secret weapon: Waldoch’s voice. Unhinged and impassioned, it’s shot through with enough unchecked emotion to make Okkervil River’s Will Sheff seem practically catatonic by comparison. “Impossible Interiors” finds the singer caterwauling over a jangly waltz, while “Hung To Dry” sets his escalating cries against a simple backdrop of acoustic guitar. Elsewhere, the band gets muscular on the booming “Clemency,” and channels an earnest ’90s alt-rock vibe on “Some Mistakes Are Worth Repeating.” Waldoch’s refreshingly direct lyrics and controlled bursts of emotion sparkle throughout, as does a wealth of unexpected vocal hooks.
Recorded over the course of a year and expertly produced by Ryan Weber (Decibully, Eric & Magill), Content Content chugs by at a good clip, but still pauses for some surprising—and welcome—detours. The impossibly lovely “A Lover’s Waltz” is immediately arresting and could easily be confused for a long-lost piano ballad from The Music Man. That show-tune sensibility informs much of the album, especially its stunning opening title track. Over a distorted guitar and organ, Waldoch wails to the heavens in an ever-desperate plea that’s more wistful than defeated. It’s a raw and poignant declaration, and plays like a roughed-up, shouted-from-the-rooftops incantation of “Over The Rainbow.” The pronunciation of Content Content may be up for grabs, but the album’s joyful statement of purpose is thrillingly clear.
Stream or download Content Content here.