Winchester 7 & the Runners may not have invented indie alternative rock, but they certainly know how to put it all together better than almost anyone else on the planet: the crunch with the pop, the soft with the loud, the warm melodies with the sweet harmonies, and the jangling, sometimes overdriven ukuleles which replace the melting guitars. These dynamics give the one-man Georgia-based, electric ukulele rock band, their unique aesthetic. As usual, project leader Winchester 7, is accompanied in by the virtual Runners, made up of Phil Voorhees (bass) who resides in Amsterdam, and Jack Kane (drums) who is itinerant in the UK. Their latest venture is the “Catacomb Songs” EP, which contains 7 songs plus 2 bonus tracks.
“Catacomb Songs” may far and away the best thing they’ve made so far – partly because Winchester 7 & the Runners admirably refuse to rest on the laurels of their past releases. Sure, there’s the very classically-Winchester 7 ukulele-lines driving the EP along, but beyond that, the spectral tones, the chilling noir, and the thrilling stomp, is the sound of a band continuing to invent while reinventing themselves. At the same time, the recording reflects our times of turmoil, uncertainty and hope. All of which are lurking in the underbelly of these songs.
“Catacomb Songs” is focused sonically, mature in mood, clever in lyrics, and has a strong ass flow from one track to the next. All skills Winchester 7 & the Runners have possessed acutely since day one.
Kicking off with “Dead Celebrities and New Beginnings”, the band immediately show how blatant they are at showing off their experience and skill at writing songs in an almost simple, but subtle and infectious way. Taking cues from holographic shows by dead celebrities, Winchester 7 draws analogies with our own daily existence and the hope for a better future.
“The Song That You Sing” buzzes with dirty, overdriven ukuleles and a thumping beat. It encases the grime, melody and sophistication of Winchester 7 & the Runners in a gritty, but sleek production.
All of which brings to one of my favorite songs on the EP, “Up On The 13th Floor”. The steady strumming jangle, the hypnotic beat, and the solid bassline underscores an infectious vocal melody and a dynamic arrangement. It feels like this is the perfect summation of everything great about this EP.
Things slow down a notch on the outstanding “Ever Said”, which has a gently sweeping melody, resulting in a deeply constructed and smartly performed song.
Intellectualized indie rock is all well and good, but to be successful you need to be authentic, and it’s on contrasting songs like “Riding High Again” and “Arcade Days” that you truly see Winchester 7 & the Runners creative credibility. “Beneath the Moon and the Stars (Extended Mix)”, closes the official track list with another ‘crunch and grit’ sonic aesthetic.
Somewhat in a generous mood, Winchester 7 & the Runners throw 2 bonus tracks into the mix, “Head On” which is a cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain track, as well as “Beneath the Moon and the Stars – PJ Gowan & Stardust Studios Extended Mix”.
At this point, there’s no doubting that “Catacomb Songs” is a great EP, both in terms of quantity and quality. Once again Winchester 7 & the Runners set the bar phenomenally high for indie alternative rock. It offers some of the band’s finest tunes and a clarity of sound and vision that is also aided by the addition of mixing engineer, Jon Paz, to the project.
Listening to “Catacomb Songs” in its entirety, instead of just cherry picking songs, you will definitely start to understand the brilliant ideas and ideals put forward by Winchester 7 & the Runners.
This is a band who totally reinvent a way of making indie, alternative and rock music, all-embracing and listenable, while still retaining moments of genius. “Catacomb Songs” is all the proof you need to understand this.