It’s abundantly clear from the moment ‘Codeine’s grizzly strut opens Welles’ debut album, ‘Red Trees and White Trashes’, the Arkansas resident is looking to emulate his heroes; it’s Led Zeppelin by the way of Black Sabbath with a little sprinkle of The Beatles with T-Rex’s touch of the extravagant. This is someone that’s been worshipping at the altar of rock ‘n’ roll and wants to be part of is rich tapestry. The problem is, by Welles attempting to channel the greats of rock, ‘Red Trees and White Trashes’ comes across as more of a pastiche rather than a reimagining. Whether it’s leaning on the clichés of drug indulgences, the summoning of a tear away rebel or blatantly singing about rock ‘n’ roll, the album itself feels over thought and forced.
So, ‘Codeine’ sets the tone “I rode in on a river of codeine/lost myself/found myself/killed myself/and brought myself to life” is delivered with a gravelled tone as a sawing guitar riff and a pounding drum lick frames Welles’
doped up words. These won’t be last reference to flirtations with narcotics or pharmaceuticals or the self-awareness of someone who proports themselves to be a renegade. Further into the record, ‘Life Like Mine’ shimmers with a woozy ‘Sgt Pepper’s’-esque swirl verses spiral, like an acid trip but it all sounds to predetermined and that’s before the cringe-worthy chorus of “how fucked up do you have to be to live a life like mine?” I dunno pal, really fucked up I guess. The mournful, acoustic lament of ‘Summer’ sees Welles describing a house party with “coke in the kitchen” ok, ok – I get it, you’re all about the drugs. Excellent. ‘Rock N Roll’ is the rock music equivalent of when rappers rhyme about money, hoes and gats – it’s almost spoof like. “Rock N Roll doesn’t eat/rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t sleep/and rock ‘n’ roll does drugs/rock ‘n’ roll just shrugs and says leave me be” chimes Welles before screaming “so give me all the drugs”, it’s like a paint by numbers rock song that strips away all of rock’s danger and mystery. Whilst lyrically ‘Red Trees and White Trashes’ jars, sonically the album clearly wants to be rough ‘n’ ready but it sounds too pristine in places, yeah there are some big anthemic guitar squalls, namely on the interlude track and ‘9.8’s closing barrage, equally ‘Hold Me Like I’m Leaving’ swaggers with a snake-hipped appeal, it’s a shame the wordplay and vocals are a bit trite.
We’ve all got heroes and we’re all got influences but ‘Red Trees and White Trashes’ is trying too hard to wear someone else’s skin.
Words and thoughts of Adam Williams