‘Cheap thrills on a crowded bus, drowning in city life…where expats dribble diatribe’ (Pointy Shoes)
It may have been nearly a decade in the making, but independently produced albums are not easy to release in the twenty-first century; hats off to Istanbul’s premier proponents of lyrical alternative rock for letting their beast land in the same week as Bowie’s – 2013 is already an incredible year for music lovers.
I first encountered Erdem Eroğlu (drums, from Turkey), Aaron Abrook (bass, UK), Nate ‘Dawg’ Fackler (lead guitar, US) and Rod McKee (vocals and guitar, Ireland) in 2004 at The Irish Centre, at the bottom of Istanbul’s famous Nevizade district. In my absolutely smashed state I vividly remember carefully-written, acute, acerbic observations in McKee’s lyrics, and subtly played yet powerful psychedelic motif’s from Fackler’s guitar (which he makes himself, muso note).
Apart from melody, satirical invention and the most convincing rhythm section in Istanbul, another defining characteristic of The Wingmen (no-one is sure for certain whether the ‘The’ is there or not), is togetherness. They survive in a barren music industry by dogmatic belief in music and a certain sense of duty and solidarity, reflected in their impassioned receptions at their regular shows at Pendor in Taksim, Karga in Kadıköy, and last year at the carvernous Ghetto and Rock and Coke festival.
‘Look At You’ would not have been possible without such unity and sense of collective vision. The aforementioned Pointy Shoes is very much Rod McKee’s snide love letter to Istanbul, and a lacerating critique on outdated forms of machismo bordering on sexual harrassment. The jaunty TV references what feels like a dying artform (thanks Facebook) and it’s tiresome chancers: ‘Put you in a room with some other wannabes’. Turn it off, say the Wingmen, and you are compelled happily to oblige.
Other gems such as Get Some and Main Attraction and comparative oldie The Medusa Club fly by on an REM/Arcade Fire on an Arthur Miller writing the words tip, with one track being an undoubted highpoint…Atonement is a magnificent, majestic piece of work, McKee’s reflections on Catholicism (‘Just a man behind the curtain all the time…you are not getting away – you will not get away’) colliding with Fackler’s hypnotically new-wave, mesmerising lead motif, taken to an epiphany by Abrook’s virtuoso bass-spidering at the end. Religion loses, but the Wingmen triumph, this time.
Solidity, consistency, musicality and biting wit mesh in the Wingmen’s tight unit to underlie a fourpiece you want to get behind and stay behind. If sometimes live the lyrics are lost due to poor equipment or soundmen (or ‘tonemeisters’, as the Istanbullers say), ‘Look At You’ gives the sharp listener a chance to savour the acuity of a postmodern James Joyce or Will Self, whilst letting the band’s warm guitar tones embrace them. Let’s not leave it another 10 years next time?