The concept of Album Attack is quite simple: a band shows up at a club/bar/whathaveyou and plays the entirety of a single, classic album. That’s all there is to this simple, straight-forward creation and cross to bear of Long Beach musician/impresario Jesse Wilder who is quite clearly out of his music-loving mind.
Wilder, who should know better, given his long and varied musical career, not only goes about the business of choosing the albums and procuring the gigs—pains enough—but insists on building each of the bands from the ground up, matching each musician to each album, kind of how “Seven Samurai” or “Magnificent Seven” were put together, minus the violence though not the pain.
“I ain’t gonna lie, it’s rough,” Wilder said. “Musicians are hard to deal with. I should know, I am one. What I do is try to find the most reliable cats that I know will really put in the effort. Ones that love the record or just really love giving that blood, sweat, and tears so we can all smile and look at each other and say, ‘Man, that was fucking awesome.’ It’s crucial to me that the people involved are huge fans of what they are playing.”
What they will be playing this summer in single performances at the Prospector and/or Costa Mesa’s Wayfarer are the Cars debut album (June 1, Prospector; June 18, Wayfarer); Supergrass’ “I Should Coco” (June 19, Wayfarer); The Strokes’ “Is This It” (July 6, Prospector; August 15, Wayfarer) and Peter Gabriel’s “So” (August 3, Prospector).
So it is for Album Attack as it has been when the format gave forth with X’s “Los Angeles,” The Damned’s “Damned, Damned, Damned,” Pixies’ “Doolittle” and so on, that is, before Wilder came to his senses and ended the madness five years ago. Now that he and Attack have returned, he’s added another, inarguably bitchen’ layer to the thing: This Thursday, each of the bands playing both venues will appear at Fingerprints, beginning at 7 p.m., to play a two or three song tease to show folks what they can expect later this summer.
Sometimes, the effects of the Attack can last beyond the gig. At least one band, Pixies tribute outfit, Debaser, were formed after performing their Attack. Wilder says that one of the things that drove him to do the Attack again was to make the kind of local connections he can’t normally make.
“I’ve been in bands in Long Beach for quite a while but there are still so many people I have never played with, I like that aspect of it,” said Wilder who formed Teen Heroes with the late Ikey Owens and had gigs with the likes of The Specials, Reel Big Fish and All-American Rejects.
“A good example is Matt Fry from many bands—he also works at Couch Guitar Straps—he played an Attack with me. Before that, we’d go out and see each other, have a beer, talk and our bands even played together, but we were never in the same project, ever. After doing that show, I thought to myself, ‘I would love to work with Matt again!’ If I hadn’t done that, I would’ve never known.”
Not that everyone loves the experience, Wilder says there have been occasions where sudden bandmates have communicated to Wilder they aren’t thrilled with the situation, especially when it comes to—Surprise!—lead singers. He has received more than one phone call from guitarists saying a singer is “being a dick” but finds that when the show rolls around, “it always seems like the spirit on stage is genuine and earnest.”
As for what the bands play, Wilder says that’s a rather organic and collaborative process.
“I’ve been doing it for so long that one of the best parts is when someone walks up to me and says, ‘You know which album you should do?’ I’m always so curious to hear their suggestions. Especially if I’ve known them or even played with them for years. Every once and a while I either have a dream or hear a record and I’m like, dammit! I wanna play it! Then I call all the people that I think would like to play it and find out. Like this time around it was Supergrass for me, so I called my old bandmates Nate Bott and Chris Paul Overall because their voices are perfect for it. I’ve been trying to get a Pavement one together too, but, you know, people with babies and stuff.
“In the beginning, I was a bit more picky with records. I worked at Fingerprints way back when and it’s pretty much like working at the store in ‘High Fidelity.’ We are all snobs. I’m not going to do ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ or ‘Sticky Fingers,’ it’s just too obvious and overdone. But I have let my guard down a little bit. Just because you’re not a fan doesn’t mean the songs aren’t dear to someone else’s heart.”
And, in the end, it’s that which drives Wilder’s madness. The idea that one album, played expertly well, has the power to reconnect and rewire someone for the better. He says he’s seen it, seen normal looking folk lose themselves at a show, singing themselves hoarse, while rejuvenating their souls.
“I do it for the smiles, man,” he said. “We have to band together these days. It does get a little exhausting, and maybe I spread myself too thin but in the long run, it’s creating memories and bringing old ones to the surface. All these albums are inspiring from beginning to end. It’s about immersing yourself in this work of art that has some meaningful connection to your life. I had one guy come into my work after Attack and he was talking about the show, not knowing I was a part of it. He said it made him cry. I mean, I don’t wanna make people cry, but, kinda?”
And so, yes, there are future shows planned. Wilder won’t name names, or albums, but he has plans. How crazy those plans will be, remains to be seen. Consider that, at one time, he considered doing The Flaming Lips “Zaireeka” on four different stages.
“I know it sounds impossible, but I don’t believe in that word,” he said. “Except when it comes to burgers.”
Fingerprints Music is located at 420 E 4th St. For more information, click here.
Steve Lowery is the Long Beach Post's Arts & Culture editor. You can follow him @SteveLowery12.
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