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“Undesirables and Anarchists” by The Little Wretches’

Running wild within the lyrics of The Little Wretches’ Undesirables and Anarchists new album are trains and train tracks. Popping up here and there in the 12-track album, the Pittsburgh rock outfit pay tribute to mankind and the dreamers within all of us in their rock and roll flavored testaments. More than just a mode of transportation, these songs capture the often tense and inward debates life in a city creates. Just as easily, they switch stations and create intimate yet rumbling rock tunes that sojourners sticking out their thumb might enjoy the ride.

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Robert Wagner, the visionary behind The Little Wretches, stretches his worldview to beyond Steel City, one can’t help but feel entrenched in his punk rock footprints. Calling to mind the sound of The Replacements meets The Lemonheads, The Little Wretches have been slaying their heavy guitars and throbbing rhythms since the 80s. The band’s history includes revolving members and accruing a large following in their beloved Pittsburgh. Wagner continues to perform in coffeehouses and various stages today, still sharing his folk – rock tunes aimed at stirring conversation.

When Wagner isn’t singing, it’s the guitars and music bed that really does the talking. From the first track “Silence (Has Made A Liar Out Of Me)” to the last track, “Running (Was The Only Thing To Do)” the music base thrusts itself upon the listener with a profound sense of movement. It’s not enough to play the guitar, it’s another to really move the song along and create natural harmonies and warmth. These songs are rock and roll at their finest – shaped in a way that the listener feels like they are the at the start of something before the patina has erased the imperfections. A beautiful female vocalist, Rosa Colucci, joins him in most tracks – taking the lead in “Running (Was The Only Thing To Do)” and gives a genuine, heartfelt balance to Wagner’s edgier voice.

In the standout “Almost Nightfall” a subtle harmonica layer adds a different coloring to an already astute sound. I’m counting my quarters to see if I stack up, sings Wagner. Hate to squander my wishes that way, he continues. It’s the time of night, where the mind starts to wander and we tend to critique the day. Sometimes we dream just as wild at the moment in time where the sun hasn’t quite set. The guitar and the percussion work is solid, never straying too far into the punk realm, but gradually stepping in-and-out.

It’s a few songs later, but “Morning” gave me a similar reaction. I fell under your spell, I was beguiled sings a more subdued Wagner. What came along to wake me…morning….morning, he sings with more zest. I liked the dynamic between his voice and the guitar, again, and the tempo is crisp. His guitar sounds crunchy, with just the prime amount of reverb catching the listener’s attention. Another song worth mentioning is the hyper “Don’t You Ever Mention My Name”. Wagner heads this rock and roll brigade, where he exclaims you better get off the tracks here comes the train. Such prophetic words – the train is rearing down the track and that sound is The Little Wretches. Undesirables and Anarchists is an odyssey of rock and roll that with each listen gains steam.

John McCall

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