February 14th, 2011
Album Review: The Wheel Workers – Unite
Somewhere between the edges of Houston and Beaumont was when I realized that I was hooked. I had been listening to the album for about a week before I took a road trip to throw money in the general direction of the casinos in Lake Charles. All albums deserve a proper road trip before judgment is made. By the time we crossed the state line The Wheel Workers had won me over with their new album Unite.
The Wheel Workers are the passion of lead singer and songwriter Steven Higginbotham. An artist turned teacher and once more turned artist transplanted to Houston from Austin during the five-year break he took from his band. For the newest realization of The Wheel Workers Higginbotham assembled Jason Williams (bass guitar), Craig Wilkins (guitar, keyboard), Allison Wilkins McPhail (keyboard, vocals, theremin) and Jason Carmona (drums) to record in his home studio.
Unite, the product of this new assemblage of musicians, starts off with a hint of New Orleans accompaniment in “The MOP” and continues on, pushing you into a dreamworld with soothing and serene arrangements. “Dreamy” is the first word, as well as the last, I think of each time I spin the record once more.
The vocals slide up and down (especially on “Open Door”, “Soft” and “Epicenter”) with no worries of the repercussions on the conscious state. If not careful, you’ll find yourself slipping away into your own daydreams. Perhaps that’s the reason that Unite is written. The lyrics are full of “everyman” struggles of day-to-day life and love. As much as Unite is a personal introspection for Higginbotham via songwriting, it inspires one in the listener.
The album threatens to rattle you from the dream daze a couple of times, but mostly Unite lets you loiter in a carefully constructed subconscious. “Bias” interrupts with a Kashmir-esque breakout of strings and crashing cymbals after the fitting line “will you ever question what you’re told.” In fact, the final song, “The Seal and the Whale”, is the first time that The Wheel Workers really kick up the metronome a notch.
The Wheel Workers might not pull off an indie upset like Arcade Fire winning best new album, but Unite is a record that will demand an audience from a hungry Houston music scene. The album release party is at Walter’s on Washington this Friday, February 18th with The Orbans and Featherface. Tickets are $10 and it comes with a complimentary copy of the album.
(Buy Unite on iTunes)